Obama to restart terror tribunals

US president Barack Obama will announce today that he will resume the Bush-era military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees he once condemned, but with new legal protections for terror suspects.

Mr Obama suspended the tribunals within hours of taking office in January, ordering a review, but stopping short of abandoning President George Bush’s strategy of prosecuting suspected terrorists.

The military trials will remain frozen for another four months as the administration adjusts the legal system that is expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees currently at the US naval detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Thirteen detainees – including five charged with helping orchestrate the September 11, 2001, attacks – are already in the tribunal system.

The changes to the system will be announced today. Two senior administration officials outlined several of the rules changes, which will be carried out by executive authority. They include:

:: Restrictions on hearsay evidence that can be used in court against the detainees;

:: A ban on all evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This would include statements given from detainees who were subjected to waterboarding;

:: Giving detainees greater leeway in choosing their own military counsel;

:: Protecting detainees who refuse to testify from legal sanctions or other court prejudices.

The White House may seek additional changes to the military commissions law over the next 120 days, but it was not immediately clear what they could include.

The tribunal system – set up after the military began sweeping detainees off the battlefields of Afghanistan in late 2001 – has been repeatedly challenged by human rights and legal organisations because it denied defendants many of the rights they would be granted in a civilian court.

Republican senator Lindsay Graham called Mr Obama’s decision to revamp and restart the tribunals a step towards strengthening US detention policies that had been derided worldwide.

“I continue to believe it is in our own national security interests to separate ourselves from the past problems of Guantanamo,” Mr Graham said.

“I agree with the president and our military commanders that now is the time to start over and strengthen our detention policies. I applaud the president’s actions today.”

But the move by the new Democratic president is certain to face criticism from liberal groups, already stung by his decision on Wednesday to try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing US troops abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That decision marked a reversal of his earlier stand on making the photos public.

More on this topic

Guantanamo 'does not meet Geneva Convention standards'Guantanamo 'does not meet Geneva Convention standards'

Obama accused of 'abandoning' Guantanamo prisonersObama accused of 'abandoning' Guantanamo prisoners

Guantanamo prisoners battle guardsGuantanamo prisoners battle guards

Criminal inquiry into British spiesCriminal inquiry into British spies

More in this Section

Thousands of festival-goers flee fire on Croatian islandThousands of festival-goers flee fire on Croatian island

Two dead as building collapses in MumbaiTwo dead as building collapses in Mumbai

Brexit deadline could be extended, says European Commission candidateBrexit deadline could be extended, says European Commission candidate

EU top job candidate ‘would grant further Brexit extension if necessary’EU top job candidate ‘would grant further Brexit extension if necessary’


Skincare guru Dr Raj Arora explains how this cleansing technique can make a big difference.Why you should follow the 60 second rule when washing your face, according to an expert

Karen Murray visited the island which is the smallest country in EU.Malta proves the best things come in small packages

It will be 40 years next month since the death of JG Farrell.Paying tribute to Booker Prize winner who drowned in West Cork 40 years ago

It’s called Kunfunadhoo and we really don’t understand why we’re not there right now.Take a look at the idyllic Maldives island where Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas are honeymooning

More From The Irish Examiner