First Gitmo military tribunal opens

From the Center for Constitutional Rights, March 27:

First Military Commission at Guantanamo Deeply Flawed
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today released a statement on the military commission proceedings at Guantánamo Bay against Australian David Hicks that began yesterday. Hicks pled guilty to material support of a terrorist group last night apparently in exchange for being allowed to serve his sentence in Australia.

Hicks was one of the very first detainees to arrive at Guantánamo in early 2002 and the first client of the Center, which now represents many of the detainees and coordinates the work of hundreds of pro bono attorneys. He was initially part of the original landmark case brought by CCR to challenge the unlawful detentions at Guantánamo, Rasul v. Bush, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees have the right to challenge their detentions in a court of law. CCR further submitted a key amicus brief in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case in which the Supreme Court ruled the military commissions unconstitutional. The Bush administration then worked with the Republican Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act in fall 2006. The Center for Constitutional Rights stated:

“The military commissions are a deeply flawed process that were blocked by the Supreme Court until the Bush administration had Congress pass the Military Commissions Act, which is unconstitutional and is currently being challenged in a petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case of the detainees for a third time in as many years. David Hicks has been held indefinitely for more than five years with no recourse to justice or a fair hearing.

“The military commissions are illegal under U.S. and international law for many reasons, most important that they allow the admission of evidence obtained through torture and other coercion. Two of Mr. Hicks’ attorneys were barred from the proceedings yesterday. According to his family and his lawyers, he is deeply depressed. It is likely he pled guilty to the charge of providing material support in order to be able to serve his time in Australia and leave the black hole that is Guantánamo.

“Hick’s guilty plea should not be seen as legitimizing in any way an utterly illegal system of off-shore penal colonies, abuse, and ‘trials’ that violate fundamental due process rights. If Hicks is to be tried, he could and should be tried in a real court—as the U.S. has done with similar charges in the past. What really were Hick’s choices?

“This is the first military commission to be held – out of 800 detainees, only 10 were ever designated to be charged and that number has dropped to three at present. There remain 385 men at Guantánamo that the government has never shown it had a reason to hold, who have been held indefinitely with no hope of being able to prove their innocence. This is a deeply flawed process whose rules change at the will of the government with no guarantees of due process or the rule of law.”

See our last posts on Gitmo, the Military Commissions Act, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush and David Hicks.