Earlier this afternoon, a federal judge halted the military tribunals set up to determine the "unlawful combatant" status of internees at Guantanamo Bay (the decision isn't up on Westlaw yet, but you can link to it at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2004/11/breaking-news-judge-stops-guantanamo.php).
Judge James Robertson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that "unless and until a competent tribunal determines that petitioner is not entitled to the protections afforded prisoners-of-war under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention...he may not be tried by Military Commission for the offenses with which he is charged [murder, terrorism, and more]." Civ. Act. No. 04-1519 (JR). Further, he may not be tried by Military Commission unless and until the tribunals accord with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including those provisions relating to confrontation of witnesses and evidence.
A couple of Classic Quotes from the learned Judge:
- "...the President has already determined that detained al Qaeda members are not prisoners-of-war under the Geneva Conventions...the President is not a 'tribunal,' however. The government must convene a competent tribunal..." at 18.
- "...the government has asserted a position starkly different from the positions and behavior of the United States in previous conflicts, one that can only weaken the United States' own ability to demand application of the Geneva Conventions to Americans captured during armed conflicts abroad." at 21.
- Judge Robertson's discussion of the "fatal" failure of the commissions to confront defendants with the evidence adduced against them begins at 31 (cf. "it is obvious beyond the need for citation that such a dramatic deviation from the confrontation clause could not be countenanced in any American court" at 32).