Yesterday, officials at Guantanamo Bay announced that United States v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al. a.k.a the 9/11 trials, will be delayed until at least April. The case has been at a standstill since December when the presiding judge, Army Col. James Pohl, decided to adjourn to determine the mental status of one of the detainees on trial.
The Guantanamo Bay detainee in question, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, has had several outburst throughout the course of pretrial hearings, leading both the defense and prosecutors to question whether he is mentally competent to stand trial. The issue was supposed to be taken care of last month, but military doctors were not able to properly assess Bin al Shibh’s mental state because he refused to see them.
This delay speaks to a number of problems the government has experienced in regard to military commissions as a whole, but it also highlights a problem with this particular case. At first glance, it may seem like a good idea to consolidate what are essentially five trials into one. In reality, its has bogged the proceedings down from the very beginning. Each of the detainees on trial in Mohammed has at least one medical condition, and when one of them experiences problems relating to the condition, it delays the prosecution of all five. For now, it appears that the case will trudge on in April.
In other Guantanamo news, Cheryl Bormann, lead defense counsel for detainee Walid bin Attash, has filed a motion to silence lead prosecutor Gen. Mark Martins after comments he made to 60 Minutes in an interview back in November. Bormann contends that General Martins’s statements violated his ethical duty to only comment publicly on “matters beyond any dispute,” such as dates and times of hearings.
General Martins, who routinely makes public statements defending the role of military commissions, has defended himself by arguing that it is part of his job to respond to “misinformed commentary ” and “single-minded advocacy.”
It is unclear at this point when a decision on the motion will be handed down.
Chris Whitten, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research