Friday, December 24, 2021

4 judges in 7 years

Carol Rosenberg of The New York Times reports here on the recusal of the latest judge to preside over one of the Guantanamo military commission cases. Excerpt:

Lt. Col. Michael D. Zimmerman was the fourth judge to preside over the case of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 61, who was arraigned in 2014. Mr. Hadi is accused of commanding Taliban and Qaeda fighters who committed war crimes by targeting troops and civilians with suicide bombings and roadside explosives devices and by firing on medical evacuation helicopters in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004.

Colonel Zimmerman’s departure illustrates a key problem that has bedeviled the hybrid military-civilian court that President George W. Bush established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Unlike federal judges, who are given lifetime appointments, military judges generally serve for a few years at military commissions and then move on to other legal roles or retire, creating delays and disrupting continuity in cases.

The Sept. 11 trial has had four judges sit at Guantánamo in nearly a decade, and three military judges handled the cases administratively from afar during the coronavirus pandemic. The Saudi prisoner who is accused of plotting the suicide bombing in 2000 of the Navy destroyer Cole has had four judges in a decade. The case of the Qaeda courier Majid Khan involved four judges from guilty plea to jury sentence.

Note to Congress, the President, and the Secretary of Defense: this is not working. 

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