Far fewer prisoners will be tried in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals than the Obama administration originally planned after a recent court ruling cast doubt on the viability of some charges, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals told Reuters.
President Barack Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force had said 36 detainees could be prosecuted, but the tribunal’s chief prosecutor put the figure at 20 at most.
The number set by the task force after a review completed in 2010 was “ambitious” in light of a recent court ruling, Army Brigadier General Mark Martins said.
The drastic scaling back of the prosecutions comes after a U.S. appeals court threw out the conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan, who was found guilty in 2008 of providing material support for terrorism.
The court agreed with defense arguments that material support was not internationally recognized as a war crime when Hamdan worked for bin Laden’s motor pool in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
Congress made material support a war crime in a 2006 law underpinning the Guantanamo tribunals, but the appeals court said the law could not be retroactively applied.
The Guantanamo tribunals were established by the Bush administration and revised by the Obama administration to try suspected al-Qaida operatives and their associates on terrorism charges outside regular U.S. civilian and military courts.