< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: John Roberts and Military Tribunals

Thursday, August 25, 2005

John Roberts and Military Tribunals

Perhaps one of the most important cases the Supreme Court has yet to hear will be Hamden v. Rumsfeld. The case involves Salim Ahmed Hamdan the former driver of Osama Bin Ladin who was captured in Afghanistan and taken to Guantanamo and is now being tried in a military tribunal. In these military tribunals, the defendant has no right to be present at his trial. Unsworn statements, rather than live testimony, can be presented as evidence against him. The presumption of innocence can be taken away from him at any time; so can his right not to testify to avoid self-incrimination. If Hamdan is convicted, he can be sentenced to death.
This case was recently sent to the D.C. federal court of appeals and was decided against Hamdan unanimously. Interestingly enough, one of the three members of the court of appeals was John Roberts, President Bush' nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. The decision (which you can read by clicking here) says that the defendant, and therefore the other Guantanamo detainees, have no right to petition for release under the Geneva Conventions. While it was safe to assume that Roberts would agree with the Bush administration on many issues, it is now almost certain that he will agree with the administration's posistion in the war on terror. I would be interested to know what others think about Roberts decision in this case and how O'Connor would have ruled.

--Tom Hayes


Blogger JB said...

On 8/1/2005, the New York Times ran a story on two top-ranked military prosecutors who complained to their superiors about the fairness of the tribunal system for detainees in confidential messages the Times obtained. Among other complaints, one of the prosecutors noted that he had been informed that exculpatory evidence would probably only exist in the ten percent of documents being withheld by the CIA for security reasons. That such evidence (which could help detainees mount a defense) is being withheld surely calls into question the U.S. government's assertion that these tribunals will be free and fair.

The full article can be accessed here:


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