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American Forces Press Service

Bush Reacts to Supreme Court Ruling on Military Tribunals

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2006 The U.S. government is evaluating today's Supreme Court ruling against military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to find the best avenue forward, President Bush said today.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 this morning that "the military commission at issue lacks the power to proceed because it violates both the (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the four Geneva Conventions in 1949."

Bush, speaking today at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, reacted to questions about to the decision in Handan v. Rumsfeld. The high court issued its ruling during Bush's meeting with Koizumi, so the president acknowledged that he had benefit of only a "drive-by briefing" before commenting publicly about it.

The United States takes the ruling seriously, and will work with Congress to determine if there's a legislative way forward that complies with the Supreme Court decision. "People are looking at it right now to determine how we can work with Congress if that is available to solve the problem," he said. "I want to find a way forward."

Bush reiterated that he would like to find a way to ultimately close the Guantanamo Bay facility. "I have told the people that I would like for there to be a way to return people from Guantanamo to their home countries, but some of the people need to be tried in our courts," he said.

Regardless of how the issue proceeds, Bush insisted that the Supreme Court ruling "won't cause killers to be put out on the street."

"I am not going to jeopardize the safety of the American people. People have got to understand that," he said. "These people were picked up off of a battlefield, and I will protect the people and at the same time conform with findings of the Supreme Court."

President Bush established the military commissions in November 2001 to try non-U.S. citizens implicated in acts of terrorism against the United States.

The process has been on hold, however, since three detainees committed suicide June 10.

The decision affects only 10 of the 450 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The 10 faced commissions on charges of violating the law of war. Charges had been prepared for four other detainees, but they had not yet been arraigned, a defense official said.

Among the detainees charged is Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver and bodyguard for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Hamden was picked up in Afghanistan in late 2001 and has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.

Hamdan challenged the legality of the U.S. government trying him for alleged war crimes before a military commission under a presidential order. Hamdan argued that he was entitled to a court-martial convened under the U.S. Code of Military Justice or a civilian trial before a federal judge.

The last time the United States used the military commission process was during World War II.

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