The dismissal by military judges of two cases before military commissions should persuade the Bush administration to end its failed judicial experiment at Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights Watch said today.
On June 4, 2007 the judges dismissed charges against Omar Khadr, who was only 15 when he was apprehended in Afghanistan, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was allegedly Osama bin Laden's driver, saying the government had failed to establish jurisdiction over the cases. The military commissions, established by Congress last year, are empowered to try “unlawful enemy combatants,” but Khadr and Hamdan – and almost 400 other detainees at Guantanamo – have been classified only as “enemy combatants.”
“If the Bush administration had any sense, this ruling would signal the death of the military commissions,” said Jennifer Daskal, US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Today's decisions show that Washington’s effort to create a parallel justice system in Guantanamo has failed.”
Since late 2001, when the Bush administration first announced military commissions to try the detainees at Guantanamo, only one person has been prosecuted by a commission. David Hicks, who pleaded guilty in March 2007 to one count of providing material support to terrorism, has since returned home to Australia to serve a nine-month sentence.
“In the five years it has taken the military commissions to prosecute one person, the federal courts have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorism cases, including dozens of international terrorism cases,” said Daskal. “It’s time to move these cases to a tried and true system that works.”