[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Monday approved [press release] the war crimes trial of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi [BBC profile], a former leader of al Qaeda’s army between 2002 and 2004. The former CIA captive has been held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] since 2007. The official charge sheet [text, PDF] alleges, among other things, that al-Hadi was a superior commander for al Qaeda and that he and his operatives killed multiple US service members and attacked a US military medical helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades and firearms. Prosecutors also allege [Reuters report] that al-Hadi funded and oversaw all of al Qaeda’s operations against US and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2002 to 2004 and that he directed his forces to use various unlawful means, such as attacking civilians and detonating car bombs in civilian areas. Military commission charges were filed [JURIST report] against al-Hadi in June 2013. Prosecutors do not seek the military execution of al-Hadi but instead ask that his maximum punishment be a lifetime behind bars.
Allegations of human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST archive] have been an issue since the first prisoners were detained there in 2002. In April Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the US [JURIST report] to release 76 detainees who had been cleared for transfer but had not yet been released from Guantanamo. Weeks earlier a Saudi detainee requested release [JURIST report] to the UK to be with his family because of severe physical and mental health issues that his attorneys argued could take a lifetime to treat. In March a Guantanamo detainee launched a lawsuit against the US challenging the practice of force-feeding [JURIST report] prisoners who have attempted to participate in hunger strikes. In February a detainee filed a lawsuit alleging that he should be released [JURIST report] because he was a prisoner of war from the US mission in Afghanistan, and accordingly should be released since the US is withdrawing from the country. This lawsuit came weeks after US President Barack Obama [official website] renewed a push to have the detention center closed [JURIST report] this year, stating that it would be appropriate given the ending of the conflict in Afghanistan and would set an example by remaining true to democratic and constitutional values. Obama had originally pledged to close the detention center five years ago.