In response to an appeal filed today by former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, seeking to overturn his conviction before a military commission, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement. Khadr’s appeal comes on the heels of an appeal filed this week by CCR client David Hicks, who, like Khadr, was convicted in the military commissions of a crime not recognized under international law: “material support for terrorism”:
Since the D.C. Circuit has already decided not to recognize retroactive convictions for war crimes dreamed up by Congress such as material support, conspiracy, and solicitation, Khadr’s appeal challenging the legality of other congressionally-created war crimes – murder and spying “in violation of the law of war” – should come as no surprise. CCR has long argued that civilians like Omar Khadr who engage in hostilities (whether in self-defense or otherwise) do not violate the laws of war merely because they lack the combat immunity of a soldier.
The fact that Khadr and Hicks’ guilty pleas came after years of severe abuse and torture by the U.S. military serves as an additional reason why their convictions must now be overturned. Until the military commissions system is scrapped for good, challenges to convictions will plague the Obama Administration for years to come.