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Military court upholds war crimes conviction of Hamdan

An appeals panel for the US Court of Military Commission Review [official website] on Friday upheld the conviction [ruling, PDF] of former Osama Bin Laden [JURIST news archive] driver and Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee, Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. The panel, which decided to hear the appeal [JURIST report] in September, ultimately rejected [AP report] the defense's argument that Hamdan's charge of providing material support to terrorism is not a war crime capable of being prosecuted by a military tribunal, stating:

It is not appellant's conduct in isolation that constitutes a law of war violation triable by military commission. Rather, it is his knowledge, intent, and conduct, in support of terrorism, and in the specific context of a conflict triggering application of U.S. treaty obligations per Common Article 3, which make it cognizable under the 2006 M.C.A. In enacting the 2006 M.C.A., Congress circumscribed the capacity of the military to unilaterally interpret the law of war and craft law of war offenses and punishments in connection with al Qaeda and terrorism offenses. The charges at bar are not the exercise of fiat or expediency by the executive branch; they are the product of closely prescribed statutes of limited application encompassing the peculiarities of the modern geopolitical environment.
Hamdan was originally convicted [JURIST report] in August 2008 on charges [charge sheet, PDF], which stemmed from his employment as Bin Laden's driver, and sentenced to 66 months of imprisonment, but given credit for 60 months he had already spent in US custody.

In November 2008, Hamdan was released [JURIST report] to his native country Yemen to serve the last month of his prison sentence and is now living freely in Yemen. His release alleviated concerns that arose when government lawyers said he could be held indefinitely [JURIST report]. In October 2008, a US military judge denied [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] a request [motion, PDF] by prosecutors that he reconsider a decision that reduced Hamdan's sentence [JURIST report] from five-and-a-half years to six months because of credit for time already served. Hamdan was initially taken into custody in 2001, and in 2006 he successfully challenged President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially construed violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system.

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