[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] Thursday announced [press release] the appointment of Army Brig. General Mark Martins [official profile] as the new chief war crimes prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] as head of the Office of Military Commissions [official website]. Martins, who is currently serving in Afghanistan as the commander of the Rule of Law Field Force, is a graduate of Harvard Law and former Rhodes Scholar. He replaces Navy Capt. John Murphy, a Navy reservist, who is returning to his job as an assistant US Attorney in Louisiana. Martins is also one of two men [Miami Herald report] in President Barack Obama’s interagency Detention Policy Task Force in charge of reviewing Guantanamo detainee files to close the Guantanamo detention facility. Before being deployed in Afghanistan, Martins served as deputy legal counsel for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and worked as a staff judge advocate under Gen. David Patreaus. He also graduated first in his class from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1983. He will take charge of detainee prosecutions including the upcoming trial of self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The case was transferred to military commission despite Obama’s and US Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan to try 9/11 suspects in civilian courts, after Congress imposed a series of restrictions [JURIST reports] barring the transfer of detainees to the US.
In March, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] allowed a lawsuit against the Library of Congress (LOC) [official website] to continue on behalf of former Guantanamo prosecutor and former LOC employee Col. Morris Davis [official profile, PDF]. He argues that his termination by the LOC violated his constitutional rights, alleging it was due to his outspoken criticism of the military commissions, writing articles, giving speeches and testifying before Congress that the system is fundamentally flawed, specifically a high-profile piece [text] for the Wall Street Journal [official website]. In April of last year, the DOD released a manual [text, PDF; JURIST report] for military commission procedures under the Military Commissions Act of 2009 [text, PDF]. The manual established the rules of evidence and procedure for the commissions, allowing for the admission of certain hearsay evidence and defining “material support” for terrorism. The release came a month after Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] appointed [JURIST report] retired Navy Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald [official profile] as the convening authority for military commissions. The position oversees military commissions themselves as well as the Office of Military Commissions and, notably, has the power to review and approve charges against “belligerents” pursuant to the Military Commissions Act.