Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit announced that it is vacating the conviction of Salim Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden's former driver, who had been convicted in 2008 by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay of providing material support for terrorism. Hamdan’s conviction had been upheld by the Court of Military Commission Review, a newly created appeals court for the military commissions.
In overturning the conviction, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals found that the charge of material support for terrorism did not exist as a war crime under international law at the time Hamdan committed the acts in question. Because authorizing punishment for something that was not a crime when committed would run afoul of the Ex Post Facto Clause of Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, the court found that the Congress intended to authorize punishment for only pre-existing war crimes.
Hamdan is no longer at Guantanamo Bay. He was transferred to Yemen in late 2008 near the end of his sentence and was freed in 2009. His case continued, however, and will likely have an impact on other persons who are charged with providing material support for terrorism. The court's decision may be found here.