July 18, 2005 – A federal appeals court Friday gave the military legal blessing to try prisoners at the GuantÃ¡namo Bay detention facility in front of a controversial military tribunal, rather than hold court martial proceedings or allow then access to the civilian system.
The unanimous ruling in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan v Donald Rumsfeld is a significant legal victory for the Bush administration, which has been under severe public and judicial criticism for its policies toward the rights of prisoners apprehended in the so-called "war on terror."
Hamden is one of only a handful of the more than 500 detainees still held at the base who has actually been charged with crimes. Though Hamdan has admitted to working as Osama bin Ladenâ€™s personal driver, he maintains that he was never a member of Al-Qaeda and insists he had nothing to do with any terrorist operations.
Fridayâ€™s decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a district court ruling from last year that found that the Bush administration could not try Hamdan for war crimes in front of a military tribunal without first properly determining whether he should be classified as a prisoner of war. The Bush administration has so far denied prisoner of war status, which carries strict protections under international law. Instead, Bush declared the detainees "enemy combatants" and has continued to insist that international law does not apply to them.