Hamdan: What’s next?

Salim Hamdan can appeal his conviction to the newly established Court of Military Commission Review, and from there up to the federal appeals court in Washington and then finally the Supreme Court. There should be no shortage of appealable issues, especially with regard to evidence and access to witnesses.

Also, Tuesday, the military judge in the case, Keith Allred, confessed to possibly making an error in instructing the jury on international war criminal law, raising the specter of a mistrial. Instead, both sides allowed the process to go forward.

When the trial began, Allred ruled that prosecutors could not used evidence obtained by interrogators under “coercive” conditions while Hamdan was imprisoned in Afghanistan. That may prove to be the most significant outcome of the case. However, Allred admitted evidence obtained by interrogations of Hamdan once he was imprisoned in Guantanamo. Expect this aspect to be a focus of the litigation to come. 

And of course, there will be a challenge to the very nature of the commissions themselves. It was Hamdan’s challenge to the first set of commission procedures that resulted in the Supreme Court declaring them unconstitutional in 2006 in the case that bears Hamdan’s name. That ruling forced the Defense Department to go back to the drawing board, but defense lawyers and human rights groups maintain that the process remains unfair and illegal. 

Detailed information on commission procedures can be found here. It is the transcript of a press conference held at the Pentagon in 2007 that outlines the re-drawn procedures. 

Also, here is a brief from human-rights watchdog Amnesty International released yesterday that addresses the preservation of interrogation evidence.

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