Months late and only hours before the start of a hearing in the military commission against Omar Khadr, the Canadian detainee accused of war crimes committed while a juvenile, the Department of Defense released the 2010 Manual for Military Commissions. Yet again, the DoD shoots itself in the foot by hurting the credibility of the military tribunals already lacking in public confidence. After the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the DoD needed to update the 2007 Manual, which provides rules of procedure and evidence. For months, NIMJ, along with a group of other nongovernmental organizations and academic experts, has publicly called for transparency and public participation in the drafting of the Manual. Offering time for public comment on proposed rules for federal courts and courts-martial are the norm. However, the DoD decided to keep this process secret.
Jon Kotilnek, an NIMJ observer currently in Guantanamo Bay to observe the hearings, reported that today’s hearing was delayed several hours in light of this development. “No one in Guantanamo, including the prosecutors or defense attorneys have seen the Manual,” Jon said. Given the timing and history of these commissions, that fact is not surprising. The Washington Independent reports that Mike Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel for the commissions, said yesterday at a press conference that, without a manual, “We don’t know what the law is.” Miraculously, a few hours later, the DoD released a signed Manual.
In the near future NIMJ will release a paper on the changes made in the new manual.