USA — Panel Chosen for Sentencing Portion of Detainee Trial

NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Feb. 16, 2011 — A mil­i­tary com­mis­sion pan­el of offi­cers made up of nine men and three women will deter­mine the sen­tence detainee Noor Uth­man Muhammed will serve after plead­ing guilty yes­ter­day to charges of con­spir­a­cy and sup­port­ing inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ist groups, includ­ing al-Qai­da.
Fif­teen poten­tial pan­el mem­bers arrived here from mil­i­tary bases around the world, and Noor’s defense team object­ed to six of them, whit­tling their num­ber to nine. The pan­el must con­tain at least five mem­bers.

The mem­bers, whose iden­ti­ties the court pro­tects, include a male Army colonel who will act as pan­el pres­i­dent, a male Navy cap­tain, a female Air Force colonel, a male Air Force colonel, a male Air Force lieu­tenant colonel, a female Air Force cap­tain, a male Navy chief war­rant offi­cer, a male Army major and a male Army lieu­tenant colonel. 

These ser­vice mem­bers will hear tes­ti­mo­ny over the next day or so before delib­er­at­ing and con­fer­ring a sen­tence in the sixth con­vic­tion pro­duced here by the com­mis­sion since 2002. “All six of our cas­es have been for­eign fight­ers who vio­lat­ed the laws of war over­seas in or near an oper­a­tional back­ground … where we have armed forces,” Navy Capt. David Igle­sias, a spokesman for the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion pros­e­cu­tors, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Service. 

Mil­i­tary com­mis­sions have had nar­row juris­dic­tion, address­ing only for­eign nation­als -– called alien ene­my unpriv­i­leged bel­liger­ents — who vio­late the laws of war, said Igle­sias, him­self a pros­e­cu­tor and a for­mer U.S. attor­ney. Because of their lim­it­ed scope, he added, the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion is “look­ing only at a small uni­verse of 60 pos­si­ble cas­es among the 172 detainees” now being held at the deten­tion facil­i­ty here. 

Unlike U.S. courts, the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion con­vened to pros­e­cute the government’s cas­es against some of the detainees held here has roots dat­ing back to the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion and long expe­ri­ence deal­ing with war crimes, Igle­sias said. 

“The Jus­tice Depart­ment has a 35-year his­to­ry of try­ing ter­ror­ism cas­es, going back to the mid-1980s. It does not have a long his­to­ry of pros­e­cut­ing war crimes,” he said. “The U.S. mil­i­tary has a his­to­ry of pros­e­cut­ing war crimes going back to the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War in the 1770s.” 

Such laws have been cod­i­fied over time in doc­u­ments such as the Hague Con­ven­tions of 1899 and 1907, among the first for­mal state­ments of the laws of war and war crimes in inter­na­tion­al law, and in the Gene­va Con­ven­tion of 1949, Igle­sias said. 

Among the cen­turies-old con­cepts are that fight­ers engage only with oth­er fight­ers and not with civil­ians or the sick or wound­ed, and that church­es, mosques, schools, hos­pi­tals and cul­tur­al cen­ters are pro­tect­ed places. 

Ter­ror­ists don’t wear uni­forms that make them rec­og­niz­able from a fixed dis­tance, Igle­sias not­ed, and they don’t have a com­mand struc­ture in which one per­son is in charge of the duties of his or her men. “They don’t rec­og­nize the laws of war,” he added. 

The last time the Unit­ed States con­vened mil­i­tary com­mis­sions was at the end of World War II, he said. 

“We set up many com­mis­sions to try war crim­i­nals in the Euro­pean the­ater, most of whom were Nazi sol­diers, and in the Pacif­ic the­ater. And then there was 60 years of silence, until 9/11,” Igle­sias said. 

Some crit­ics of mil­i­tary com­mis­sions com­plain that their legal require­ments did­n’t stand up to those observed by civil­ian courts or the Uni­form Code of Mil­i­tary Jus­tice. That changed in 2009, Igle­sias said. 

“There was a Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sions Act of 2006 that our lead­er­ship thought did not rep­re­sent the type of due process that we have his­tor­i­cal­ly rec­og­nized in this coun­try,” he acknowl­edged. The act was reformed and signed by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in 2009. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates signed the fore­word to the revised rules. 

The new act “gives greater rights to detainees and makes it more dif­fi­cult for either side to use hearsay evi­dence,” Igle­sias not­ed, but the new rules don’t make mil­i­tary com­mis­sions iden­ti­cal to try­ing a crim­i­nal case, he added. 

In many cas­es, he explained, the government’s bur­den is much more dif­fi­cult because of the enor­mous amount of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion that’s used in cas­es against war criminals. 

There may be wit­ness­es over­seas that for­eign gov­ern­ments don’t want to pro­duce,” he said, “so there has to be a way for the gov­ern­ment to intro­duce evi­dence that in a nor­mal court would be prohibited.” 

With that excep­tion, he added, there’s very lit­tle dif­fer­ence between a court-mar­tial case and a mil­i­tary com­mis­sions case. “How the cas­es are put togeth­er and pre­sent­ed in court are vir­tu­al­ly iden­ti­cal,” he said. 

The revi­sion also reduced the time required to resolve cas­es, he said. The Noor case marks three cas­es resolved in six months. Under pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the law, only three cas­es were resolved from 2001 to 2008. 

As a for­mer state pros­e­cu­tor, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor and mil­i­tary defense coun­sel, Igle­sias said, he believes “the Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sions Act of 2009 rep­re­sents the rule of law, it rep­re­sents due process, and it is a fair sys­tem that pro­tects the rights of the accused.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →