My Latest Legal Hero
My nomination for legal hero as the year draws to a close is Military Commission Judge Keith J. Allred, a Navy captain, who on Monday threw another well-intentioned monkey wrench into the government's plans to make its own rules in the legal war on terrorism.
Judge Allred ruled that Salim Ahmed Hamdan (yes, that Salim Ahmed Hamdan) is entitled to another hearing to determine his status as either a "prisoner of war" or an "enemy combatant." You may think this is no big deal; after all, the people who make up the military commission that will conduct this hearing may be the same people who found Hamdan to be an "enemy combatant" to begin with.
But Judge Allred also ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, those "processing" hearings set up to classify men like Hamdan, are not substitutes for the tribunals required by the Third Geneva Convention. This matters not just because it might force military officials to conduct that second hearing for all of the detainees it chooses to prosecute under military law. It also matters because the Pentagon, and the White House and Justice Department have gone out of their way to undermine the authority of the Geneva Convention rules as they apply to the men at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The best summary of the ruling can be found here, at Lyle Denniston's fantastic blog. As this case wends its way through the system, remember: the Military Commissions Act itself is under review by the Supreme Court. Are these disputes and cases and legal conflicts going to wash over us, like waves, every two years, until the detainees are old men who have spent the prime of their lives without charges or trial? Don't ask me. I'm no hero.
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