Gavel Grab

Appeals Court Reverses Conviction of Bin Laden’s Driver

The terrorism conviction of Salim Hamdan, a driver and bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“When Hamdan committed the conduct in question, the international law of war proscribed a variety of war crimes, including forms of terrorism,” Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote, according to a New York Times article. “At that time, however, the international law of war did not proscribe material support for terrorism as a war crime.”

In 2008, a military commission  convicted Hamdan of  providing material support to terrorism. A Guantánamo  detainee, he was repatriated to his homeland of Yemen. Earlier, Hamdan’s case had paved the way for a Supreme Court decision that struck down the President George W. Bush administration’s first structure for military commissions.

This week’s ruling, according to the Times, “delivered a setback to the broader military commissions system.” The court said that military commission legislation passed by Congress in 2006 included the charge of providing material support to terrorism as a war crime but did not apply it in a retroactive manner.

Most of the Guantánamo detainees were captured before 2006. This week’s ruling means reduced prospects for many of them actually going to trial, the newspaper said.

“This calls into question the fundamental legitimacy of the military commission system,” said Raha Wala, counsel at the Law and Security Program of Human Rights First, according to a Huffington Post article. ”You have a law of war tribunal trying to prosecute people for what the court has now said are not law of war violations, and it’s trying to do so retroactively in violation of fundamental due process principles.”

The article was entitled, “Salim Hamdan Dismissal Jeopardizes Remaining Guantanamo Military Trials.”

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