The Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Tuesday announced that military prosecutors have sworn charges [press release] against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and four other alleged 9/11 conspirators being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The DOD said Mohammed along with Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi are being charged pursuant to Military Commissions Act of 2009, 10 U.S.C. §§ 948a, et seq [text]. All five are accused of eight charges: conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking aircraft, and terrorism. Pursuant to the Military Commissions Act, the sworn charges must be sent to an independent convening authority who determines whether to refer some, all or none of the charges to the military commission. If the convening authority refers the case, then he or she will choose a panel to act as jurors in the case. The DOD said that the prosecutors have recommended that the convening authority pursue the charges as capital.
Last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that Mohammed and four others would be tried by a military commission [JURIST report] after the Obama administration abandoned attempts to have the 9/11 suspects tried in civilian courts. Holder had wanted the accused be tried before a federal civilian court [JURIST report] but referred the cases to the DOD after Congress imposed a series of restrictions [JURIST report] barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the US. In March 2010, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] called on the Obama administration to hold civilian trials [JURIST report] for Mohammed and other suspected terrorists saying that the military commissions system is fatally flawed and cannot be reformed. Earlier that month, the ACLU released a full-page advertisement in the New York Times urging President Barack Obama [JURIST report] to uphold his pledge to try 9/11 suspects in civilian criminal court.