In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the original military commission system established by former President George W. Bush to try detainees at Guantánamo Bay was unlawful because it had not been authorized by Congress. Unfortunately, in 2006 and then again in 2009, Congress provided that authorization when it passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA), legitimizing a system of military tribunals that fails to meet fair trial and due process standards.
The Guantánamo military commission proceedings have been marred by legal and ethical problems from day one. Among other things, the proceedings allow the admission of secret evidence, hearsay, and evidence obtained through coercion in certain circumstances. Defendants’ access to counsel has been consistently obstructed, and even their testimony about torture and coercion can be censored, keeping the worst of the government’s post-9/11 abuses shielded from the public.
The ACLU has been present as an independent observer at nearly every commission hearing since 2004 and documented the ways in which the proceedings are unfair, unconstitutional, and plagued by excessive secrecy.
We continue to urge President Barack Obama to follow through with his promise from the early days of his presidency: Shut down the military commissions and transfer the defendants to the United States to be tried in civilian court.