Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Government Drops War Crimes Charges in Military Commissions

The NYT reports today that the government has dropped war crimes charges against five detainees--including Binyam Mohamed, a former British resident accused in the dirty bomb case--and changed course in its case against six Algerian detainees--including Lakhdar Boumediene--allegedly tied to a Sarajevo embassy bomb plot.

The article, also referencing Jose Padilla's case, does a nice job setting out the government's litigation strategy in these cases to avoid judicial scrutiny of its detention, treatment, and military trial policies and procedures.  (Check out Colonel Morris's "pighead" comment, below.  Perhaps the government learned a lesson from Hamdan.)

Here are the highlights:

[In dropping the charges, Mohamed's] lawyers argued Tuesday that the government was trying to avoid having to answer his accusations [that the government tortured him]. . . .

The Pentagon's decision to dismiss the cases comes after the former prosecutor, Colonel Vandeveld, said in a military commission filing that he had ethics questions about prosecution procedures for notifying the defense about information favorable to detainees.  He called the procedures "appalling" and "incomplete and unreliable."

[Defending the government's decision] Colonel Morris said it was better to review cases "than the opposite, which is show yourself to be so pigheaded that you would stick to the way you originally charged a case" instead of reevaluating it. . . .

For several years, the Bush administration has shifted its legal approach at pivotal moments in legal confrontations over its detention policy--transferring detainees on the eve of hearings and abandoning legal arguments.

"Every time they get near a court they try and figure out a way to avoid court review or evade a decision that has come down," said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has coordinated detainees' cases.

In the Algerians' case, the government did not plan to introduce any evidence about the embassy bomb plot, according to their lawyer.  The case will be heard in district court in Washington as soon as next week.


Executive Authority, News, War Powers | Permalink

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