fbpx

Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 24.08.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

facts

Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul was born in Yemen in 1971.

As alleged by the Pentagon, al Bahlul travelled from Yemen to Afghanistan in 1999 to join and to support Osama bin Laden in his cause. He was said to have supported Bin Laden in the knowledge of the latter’s 1996 “Declaration of Jihad against the Americans” and the 1998 fatwa endorsed by bin Laden calling for the “killing of Americans and their allies, both military and civilian”.

In 1999, upon arriving in Afghanistan, al Bahlul allegedly met Saif al Adel, the head of the al Qaeda Security Committee. Based upon arrangements made by Saif al Adel, al Bahlul was said to have participated in military training for two months at the al Qaeda-sponsored Aynak camp in Afghanistan.

After completing his training at Aynak camp, al Bahlul allegedly met with and pledged absolute allegiance to Osama bin Laden, affirming his willingness to perform any act requested by bin Laden and to protect him from all harm.

He was further said to have lived, in late 1999, at an al Qaeda-sponsored guesthouse in Kandahar and to have performed duties in support of al Qaeda.

From late 1999 to December 2001, he was reportedly assigned by Osama bin Laden personally to work in the al Qaeda media office. In this capacity, al Bahlul was said to have created several instructional und motivational recruiting video tapes on behalf of this organisation.

Osama bin Laden was said to have personally given al Bahlul the task of creating a video glorifying, among other things, the attack on die USS COLE. Al Bahlul allegedly created this “USS COLE” video to recruit, motivate and “awaken the Islamic Umma to revolt against America”.

In the weeks immediately following the attacks of 11 September 2001 al Bahlul was allegedly put in charge of obtaining media reports concerning the attacks and of gathering data concerning the economic damage caused by these attacks.

In 2001, al Bahlul was reported to have served as an armed bodyguard for Osama bin Laden while travelling with him.

It is unclear where, when and by whom al Bahlul was arrested. He is currently being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.

legal procedure

It is unclear where, when and by whom al Bahlul was arrested. He is currently being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.
On 29 June 2004 Al Bahlul was charged with Conspiracy, within the framework of al Qaeda, by joining this organisation in order to commit such war crimes as attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, murder by an unprivileged belligerent, destruction of property by an unprivileged belligerent, and terrorism.

Al Bahlul’s case will be judged by a US military commission for foreign citizens in the war on terror, whose jurisdiction is based on the President‘s determination of 3 July 2003 that Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul is subject to his Military Order of 13 November 2001, which instituted the military commission procedure for certain foreigners in the so-called war against terror.

The first pre-trial hearings fell into confusion in August 2004 when al Bahlul demanded to act as his own lawyer and not use lawyers assigned by the Pentagon, and when he also admitted that he was a member of al Qaeda, the network responsible for the 11 September attacks.

During a pre-trial hearing on 11 January 2006, al Bahlul boycotted the proceedings, refusing the services of a USA lawyer whom he considered to be the “enemy”. The Commission’s presiding officer ordered Bahlul’s defence council to continue to represent al Bahlul to the best of his ability even without the cooperation of al Bahlul.

On 15 May 2006, to comply with a court order from US District Court, the Department of Defence released what they described as a full list of all the Guantanamo detainees who had been held in military custody. Al Bahhlul is one of the detainees known to have been held in Guantanamo whose name was missing from this official list.

On 29 June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (see profile of Salim Ahmed Hamdan in “related cases”) that the US President had exceeded his authority in establishing the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay. The Court also ruled that the commissions violated U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions.

A controversial new bill was passed by the US Senate and the House of Representatives in late September 2006. (See “spotlight”).

In June 2007 US Military Commission judges dismissed cases against Hamdan and Khadr (see “related cases”), two other Guantanamo detainees, on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. This ruling could potentially have implications for all 385 detainees currently held at the Guantanamo base.

On 7 June 2007, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 in support of The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act which, if adopted, would allow Guantanamo detainees to challenge their detention in US federal courts for the first time since the Military Commissions Act of 2006 revoked that right.

On 8 February 2008, the Office of Military Commissions announced that three charges had been brought against Guantanamo detainee Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul.

The first two charges were for conspiracy and incitement to commit: murder of protected persons, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, murder in violation of the Laws of War, destruction of property in violation of the Laws of War, terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism. The third charge was for providing material support for terrorism.

In accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Manual for Military Commissions, al Bahlul was to be brought before the military trial judge for arraignment within 30 days of the charges being served. Within 120 days of the charges being issued against the accused, the military trial judge would assemble the military commission.
The US Department of defence announced that among 275 detainees in Guantanamo, about 80 will probably be judged by a military commission.

Highlights

The military commission proceedings at Guantánamo are the first such war crimes trials conducted by the United States since World War II.

Of the 500 or so captives brought to Guantánamo from Afghanistan since 2002, only a small fraction is facing a military commission.

Human rights activists and military defence lawyers have criticized the commission rules, saying they favour prosecutors, allow evidence obtained through torture and hearsay and permit only limited independent judicial review. Critics also note that the Pentagon has never said it would actually free a defendant if he were acquitted.

Furthermore, the detainees were said to be charged with acts that were not previously crimes or not previously recognized as war crimes.

On 28 March 2006, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to George W. Bush’s power to create military commissions to put Guantanamo prisoners on trial for war crimes (cf. the profile of Salim Ahmed Hamdan in “related cases”). On 29 June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the US President had exceeded his authority in establishing the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay. The Court also ruled that the commissions violated U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions.

A controversial new bill was passed by the US Senate and the House of Representatives in late September 2006.

The new Military Commissions Act, which has been strongly criticised by human rights organisations:
– allows terror suspects to be tried by military tribunals rather than civilian courts
– gives defendants a legal right to see evidence and a (limited) right to counsel
– forbids “serious” breaches of the Geneva Conventions, such as torture, in the course of interrogation procedures
– gives the president the authority to “interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions”
– allows for hearsay evidence in trials of terror suspects.

Furthermore, the new legislation does not foresee the possibility for these prisoners to invoke the Geneva Conventions when claiming violations of their human rights.

The new bill entered into force following signature by the President in October 2006.

On 7 June 2007, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 in support of The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act which, if adopted, would allow Guantanamo detainees to challenge their detention in US federal courts for the first time since the Military Commissions Act of 2006 revoked that right.

Context

Guantanamo Bay, officially the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), is a detention facility situated on the US naval base in Guantánamo, Cuba. The prison was established in January 2002 as part of the US-led “war on terror”, an international campaign of military operations based on legal and policy reforms introduced by the administration of President George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

The detention centre’s purpose is to interrogate and prosecute alleged dangerous individuals, suspected of involvement with terrorist groups. Yet, of the 779 total detainees, the majority was found to be non-combatants with no proven affiliation to al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other recognised terrorist organisations.

The legal basis for the establishment of Guantanamo Bay lays on the Joint Resolution 23, adopted by the US Congress in September 2001. It authorised then-President Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks and to prevent future attacks.

Based on this national security justification, the Bush administration sought to exclude Guantanamo detainees from the protection of the US Constitution, arguing that it does not apply since the facility is located outside US territory. The US department of Defense (DOD) further argued that the Geneva Conventions was not applying to Guantanamo Bay, and fighters for non-State terrorist entities, such as al-Qaeda, should be considered as “unlawful enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war for the purposes of the third Geneva Convention. Thus they were excluded from the protections provided by that treaty. Stripped of basic legal and procedural rights, prisoners are detained indefinitely without trial and charge or tried by military commission.

However, in its 28 June 2004 decision in the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld case, the US Supreme Court upheld the detainees’ right to challenge their “enemy combatant” status by means of a legal action called habeas corpus, which alleges unlawful detention or imprisonment. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the Bush administration created Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT), specialised military commissions aimed at determining the detainees’ status.

On 29 June 2006, in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, the Supreme Court found these procedures to be illegal under both federal military justice law and under the Geneva Conventions. The Court held that the Bush administration did not have the requisite authority to establish the CSR tribunals due to a lack of congressional authorisation.

In response to this decision, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which provided a federal law basis for the commissions and relieved all US federal courts of the authority to hear a habeas corpus writ filed by any “alien detained as an enemy combatant”. Yet, in Boumediene v. Bush, which was decided on 12 June 2008, the Supreme Court declared the MCA provisions relating to habeas corpus jurisdiction illegal and affirmed the detainees’ right to such actions under the US Constitution.

In addition to the aforementioned legal issues, Guantanamo Bay has been the subject of persistent allegations of torture and mistreatment of detainees since its establishment.

In December 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorised the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including stress positions, sleep deprivation, intimidation and humiliation, in US counterterrorism operations. Former Guantanamo commander Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, who was in control of the prison from 2002 to 2004, was allegedly tasked with implementing these techniques. Following an inspection of the facilities in June 2004, the ICRC submitted a confidential report to the US government, stating that these techniques amount to torture. After the report was leaked to the New York Times in November 2004, it was reported that the Bush administration had rejected the ICRC’s findings.

The allegations brought by detainees and human rights organisations were confirmed in 2009, when the US department of Justice (DOJ) released classified memoranda detailing the use of interrogation techniques. The so-called “Torture Memos”, drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee in August 2002, assert the legality of such methods. Shortly after taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama affirmed that the techniques in question constituted torture and prohibited all government agencies from relying on the memos. However, despite widespread condemnation from both US government officials and the international community, as of July 2016 there have been no prosecutions of persons involved in the memos’ creation, nor any of the CIA or DOD personnel that are alleged to have carried out such acts of torture.

President Obama called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay and the transfer or release of all detainees. However, strong opposition from Congress, particularly to the transfer of inmates to prisons on US soil, continuously thwarted the Obama administration’s attempts to terminate operations. Other issues complicating the facility’s closure include the trials of the remaining detainees, particularly those involving evidence that was gathered through the use of torture. At the end of July 2016, Guantanamo Bay remained operational, with 61 prisoners still being detained in the facilities.

©2020 trialinternational.org | All rights reserved | Disclaimer | Statutes | Designed and Produced by ACW