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US formally approves charges against Australian Guantanamo detainee Hicks

[JURIST] The US military on Thursday formally referred the charges against David Hicks [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] to a military commission. Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Manual for Military Commissions (MMC) [DOD materials; JURIST report], Hicks, an Australian citizen, will face arraignment within 30 days after he is served with the charges, and the military commission will be assembled within 120 days, after which the trial date will be scheduled. Hicks is charged with one count of providing material support to terrorists [DOD press release] and faces a potential life sentence. Although prosecutors initially also sought an attempted murder charge against Hicks, only the material support charge with two specifications was referred to a military commission by the Convening Authority. AP has more.

Also on Thursday, the Australian Lawyers Alliance [group website] presented a report [materials; ABC Australia report] to Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock that characterizes the US military commission plan as "unfair and unreasonable." Specifically, the report states the MMC is unacceptable because:

  • its jurisdiction is retrospective and wide-ranging;
  • the hearsay rule is unfair to the accused and dilutes the common law rules of hearsay;
  • important procedural rules are not predicated on principles of fairness;
  • any custodial sentence imposed does not take into account time already served by the accused;
  • involuntary confessions are admissible; and
  • appeal provisions favour positive outcomes for the prosecution.
  • New charges against Hicks were proposed [JURIST report] in February; the military was forced to drop the original charges against him after the US Supreme Court ruled last June that the original military commissions system established by President Bush unconstitutional without Congressional authorization [JURIST report]. The new charges were subject to a formal approval process.

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