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American Forces Press Service

Chief Prosecutor Seeks 'Strong Evidence' Against Accused Terrorists

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2003 - The acting chief prosecutor for military commissions is seeking hard proof linking detained enemy combatants to war crimes when selecting cases for trial.

"First of all, I want cases with very strong evidence," Army Col. Frederic Borch III pointed out during an Aug. 7 Wall Street Journal interview.

"I have to have a case that has good proof," the Army lawyer emphasized.

Six enemy combatants now being detained by DoD are undergoing evaluation to see if any should be charged and tried for war crimes under military commissions.

Borch, the Office of Military Commission's senior prosecuting military attorney, pointed out that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, the appointing authority, must approve any charges preferred against the accused.

The senior Army lawyer said he's also looking for "compelling facts" when weighing whether to bring accused terrorists to trial before military commissions.

And as the facts of accused terrorists' actions are presented during courtroom proceedings, Borch posited, people are "going to recognize the true danger" they pose to society.

"There are some bad people being detained down at Guantanamo Bay (Cuba)," Borch noted, who, "present a very real danger to not only America, but everyone, because they're involved with terrorism."

War crimes, Borch noted, may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conspiracy to commit murder.

  • Unlawful attacks on civilian objects.

  • Torture.

  • Killing of prisoners of war.

Most of the some 660 detainees at Guantanamo Bay aren't being held "for any view towards prosecution, but instead because they're enemy combatants who've been captured on the battlefield or (are) being detained" as part of the global war on terrorism, Borch explained.

"However, as time goes on we are identifying some of these as possible prosecution (subjects)," the colonel pointed out. About 64 detainees, commission officials noted, have been released.

Any detainees who'd be brought to trial before military commissions, Borch said, have been "up to some very bad things."

"That's why they're being prosecuted," he pointed out.

However, Borch emphasized, the president has mandated "full and fair" trials for accused detainees.

The "court of public opinion will see that this was a full and fair process," the colonel emphasized, "and the right legal mechanism for handling terrorism in the war on terrorism."

The detainees were seized during U.S. and coalition military operations precipitated by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The al Qaeda terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, is universally believed to have planned and carried out the 9-11 attacks.

President George Bush, commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, determined on July 3, 2003, there is reason to believe that each of the six enemy combatants was a member of al Qaeda or was otherwise involved in terrorist acts against the United States.

As such, the six detainees fall under the president's Military Order of Nov. 13, 2001, which directed the establishment of military commissions to provide full and fair trials of enemy combatants suspected of having committed war crimes against the United States, as recognized under international law.

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