Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pentagon's Loss is a Credibility Win

A military judge refused to grant the Pentagon's request to reinstate charges against Omar Khadr, detained for killing a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2001. The charges against him were originally dropped when Judge Army Col. Peter Brownback ruled that Khadr was not classified as an unlawful enemy combatant and therefore the military courts had no jurisdiction over him. (CNN: Judge affirms ruling to dismiss Gitmo charges.)

The Pentagon will likely appeal the ruling within five days to the Court of Military Commissions Review, however given Khadr's status, it is unlikely that such an appeal will succeed. A Pentagon spokesman stated, "We are disappointed with the judge's decision in this matter." I'm sure they are disappointed, however the ruling speaks volumes for the credibility of the military judicial process.

One of the biggest concerns one has with regards to military tribunals in times of war has to do with the impartiality of the court. For the process to work, and for the Fourth Geneva Convention to have any meaning at all, the military tribunal and subsequent military courts must have credibility. For a military court to dismiss charges against an enemy combatant (as classified by a tribunal) on the grounds that his classification was insufficient to grant the court jurisdiction clearly demonstrates that there is credibility in the system. This is not a kangaroo court where the verdict is a foregone conclusion.

For good or ill, the eyes of the world are on the proceedings at Guantanamo. As with any court proceeding, the process itself as well as the outcome must be able to withstand public scrutiny. Dropping charges against Khadr goes a long way towards demonstrating the fairness of the process and establishing the credibility of the court. The Pentagon clearly lost this one, however the military's credibility and the credibility of the military tribunal process won a resounding victory.

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