The decision, welcomed by some and condemned by others, will give an air of legitimacy and transparency to trials for detainees who have been held, in some cases under very questionable circumstances.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s case will likely be of particular interest, not just because of his own outspoken nature but because he faced an enormous amount of torture while in American custody. Mohammed was reportedly waterboarded 183 times in 2003.
Handling such a high profile trial in the wake of years of harsh mistreatment by the government will be a particular challenge, and the process will likely be a lengthy one.
But trials aren’t for everybody, it seems. The administration has decided that Omar Khadr, the Canadian-born teenager captured by US forces in 2002, will be sent to the US but will still be charged before a military tribunal. Khadr is charged in the death of a US soldier, but lawyers have maintained that the soldier was killed by a US grenade.
The Obama Administration’s willingness to give civilian trials to Guantanamo detainees, a long-standing complaint of human rights groups and the international community, will likely be praised, but that praise will surely be tempered by the tribunals some will continue to be subjected to. The lack of transparency in how the administration decides which detainees are to be permitted trials and which are not will likewise confound attempts to understand the process.