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Homeland Security

10 June 2004

Defense Department Report, June 10: Detainee Issues Updated

Australian detainee charged; new defense guidance on detainee deaths

The Defense Department announced June 10 that Australian David Hicks -- held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- will tried by a U.S. military commission for his alleged al-Qaeda association while in Afghanistan.

Hicks, who is assumed innocent until proven otherwise, has been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, aiding the enemy, and "attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent."

A June 10 Defense Department news release announcing the charges against Hicks says he was thought to have attended al-Qaeda terrorist training sessions in Afghanistan and used knowledge he acquired to conduct surveillance in Kabul of the U.S. and British embassies. He is also reported to have left Pakistan in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States to rejoin al-Qaeda associates in Afghanistan and take up arms to fight coalition forces there.

The date of his trial has not been selected. He has access to an Australian lawyer with a security clearance.

If convicted, the prosecution will not seek the death penalty, and arrangements will be sought to transfer Hicks to Australia to serve any possible sentence.

Hicks is the third detainee in custody at Guantanamo Bay to be charged.

Military commissions typically are used to try violators of the laws of armed conflict.
Further information about commissions may be found at

In another development, the Defense Department also announced June 10 that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has issued new guidance on procedures to investigate deaths of any detainees while in U.S. military custody.

The new guidance stipulates that deaths must be reported by the commander of a detention facility to the appropriate military service investigative agency, who will be expected to contact the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner (AFME). The AFME will decide if an autopsy is needed.

The regional military commander-in-chief (CINC) will be responsible for notifying the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when any individual detainee dies in U.S. custody. He, in turn, will notify the defense secretary.

These guidelines, according to the Department, are "part of a series of efforts to strengthen policies and eliminate procedural weaknesses that have come to light as a result of the deplorable events at Abu Ghraib prison" in Iraq.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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