Terrorism Trials: Military Commissions

Chief Prosecutor Statement on Opening of This Week's Al-Hadi Hearing

By Wells Bennett
Monday, January 26, 2015, 9:27 AM

Here it is.  Last night's statement from Brigadier General Mark Martins opens:

Good evening. This week the Military Commission convened to try the charges against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi will hold its third series of sessions without panel members present since he was arraigned on 18 June 2014. On that date, Abd al Hadi was formally brought before the Commission, advised of counsel rights by the Military Judge, and placed on notice of charges that he committed serious violations of the law of war by conspiring with and leading others, as a senior member of al Qaeda, in a series of unlawful attacks and related offenses in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere from 2001 to 2006. These attacks and other offenses allegedly resulted in the death and injury of U.S. and coalition service members and civilians.

I emphasize that the charges against Abd al Hadi are only allegations. He is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Matters under consideration by a military commission in this or any other particular case are authoritatively dealt with by the presiding judge, and any comments addressing systemic issues that are the subject of frequent questions by interested observers should always be understood to defer to specific judicial rulings, if applicable.

Since arraignment, the parties have briefed in writing 17 substantive motions, 7 of which the Commission has ruled on. More than 8,314 pages of material comprising the government’s case against the Accused, as well as material required to be disclosed to the defense under the government’s affirmative discovery obligations, have been provided to the defense. These examples of the cumulative work accomplished in this case to date, while never offered to suggest that justice can be quantified, illustrate the less visible progress toward trial that occurs through filings and judicial decisions.

Among the rulings to date is an order calling for a hearing on the Commission’s personal jurisdiction over the Accused. AE 20D. (Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to bring a person into its adjudicative process.) The prosecution has a duty to show a military commission has jurisdiction over an accused—and that duty arises only if an accused directly raises a personal-jurisdiction challenge before the commission. AE 20A. This means that, until an accused directly challenges personal jurisdiction, commissions may exercise prima facie jurisdiction over an accused. Id. Finding in November 2014 that Abd al Hadi raised the issue of personal jurisdiction (AE 20B), the Commission issued an order this month setting deadlines for evidentiary motions on the issue and scheduling hearings on the evidentiary motions for 25 29 May 2015 and 20-31 July 2015 (AE 20D).