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Homeland Security

26 October 2005

U.S. Military Commissions Fair, Transparent, U.S. General Says

Trial of Australian detainee David Hicks scheduled to begin November 18

By Alexandra Abboud
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The military trial of David Hicks, an Australian enemy combatant who was captured while fighting in Afghanistan in 2001, will begin on November 18. The Department of Defense has worked to make the procedure “fair, open and transparent,” said Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway, legal adviser to the Appointing Authority for Military Commissions.

At an October 19 videoconference at the Pentagon with Australian journalists, Hemingway said that changes to the military commission procedures made in August will create a more efficient process for trying detainees.  “Our desire is to proceed as expeditiously as possible consistent with conducting a full and fair trial,” Hemingway said when asked about the likely length of the Hicks’ trial.  (See related article.)

Critics of the military commissions argue that the courts are unfair and do not provide proper legal protections to the defendants. Hemingway said the military commission in place uses the same standard of evidence used by many current international tribunals, including the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC). The rules of evidence apply to both sides, Hemingway said, and “any evidence that is introduced by either side must also meet the standard of protecting a full and fair trial.”

Hemingway also said that in addition to being provided free military defense counsel, defendants may hire additional civilian defense counsel. In the Hicks case, several observers from the Australian government and a Hicks’ family member also will be present. “We've made a commitment all along to provide them the opportunity to observe the proceedings,” he said. 

Information about the proceedings, including copies of the filed motions and charges, can be found on the Department of Defense Detainee Affairs page.

For more information about detainee issues in general, see Detainee Issues.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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