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Guantanamo charges show flaws of new military commissions

Emi MacLean [attorney, Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, Center for Constitutional Rights]: "On Friday, the Department of Defense announced charges against three detainees in Guantánamo - Omar Khadr, Salim Hamdan, and David Hicks. These three men promise to be test cases. Their proposed commission hearings will force an examination of the intelligence value of the military base at Guantánamo, the coercive interrogation tactics that have been roundly criticized, and the unbalanced procedures authorized by the Military Commissions Act rushed through Congress on the eve of the midterm elections. Each had been charged under the prior military commissions, which were subsequently declared illegal by the Supreme Court in June 2006, and are now charged a second time under military commissions which purport to have a congressional stamp of approval.

The renewed charges against these three men demonstrate the serious flaws of the new military commissions, and the indefensibility of the continued indefinite detention at Guantánamo. The jurisdiction for the commissions rests in part on the determination of a procedurally flawed "combatant status review tribunal" (CSRT) that the accused are "unlawful enemy combatants." In the CSRT proceedings, detainees are denied access to counsel, and determinations are made based on secret evidence and statements made through coercive interrogations. Some of the charges have no basis in the law of war, including providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy. And, as before, the allegations against the three men are largely based on claims about membership in or association with groups, with minimal allusions to evidence that would demonstrate each individual's direct involvement in internationally accepted war crimes."

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