Annual Report: USA 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: USA 2010

View More Research

  • Canadian national Omar Khadr remained in US custody at the end of the year, facing a military commission trial for an alleged war crime committed when he was 15 years old (see Canada entry).

Transfers to federal court

  • In June, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, held in secret US custody for two years before being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006, was transferred to New York to face trial in a federal court on charges relating to the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
  • In November, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that five Guantánamo detainees previously facing military commission trials - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and Mustafa al Hawsawi - would be transferred for trial in federal courts on charges relating to the attacks in the USA of 11 September 2001. The five men were still held in Guantánamo at the end of the year.
  • In March, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national held since June 2003 in indefinite military custody in the USA, was transferred to civilian custody to face charges in a federal court. He entered a guilty plea on a charge of "conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization" and was sentenced to 100 months' imprisonment. The judge reduced the sentence by nine months "to reflect the very severe conditions" in which Ali al-Marri had been held between 23 June 2003 and late 2004.

Habeas corpus proceedings for Guantánamo detainees

By the end of the year, 18 months after the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that detainees held in Guantánamo were "entitled to a prompt habeas corpus hearing" to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, most of those who had lodged petitions had still not received a hearing. In a majority of the cases in which a decision was made, the detainee was found to be unlawfully held. A number of detainees who received such decisions continued to face indefinite detention at Guantánamo while the administration decided how to respond.

In November the Attorney General told a Senate hearing that there remained a possibility that, once the review of Guantánamo cases was completed, there would be a number of detainees whom the administration would seek to continue to detain without charge under "the laws of war".

Detentions in Bagram, Afghanistan

The US military continued to hold hundreds of detainees, including a number of children, without access to lawyers or the courts in Bagram air base in Afghanistan (see also Afghanistan entry). Litigation continued in US federal courts about whether Bagram detainees could have access to the US courts to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

On 2 April, a federal judge ruled that three of the four Bagram detainees whose habeas corpus petitions were before him could challenge their detention. The three were non-Afghan nationals, while the fourth was an Afghan. In September, the government appealed against this ruling. The appeal was pending at the end of the year.

CIA secret detention programme

In April, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) confirmed that, pursuant to an executive order on interrogations signed by President Obama on 22 January, the CIA was no longer using any "enhanced interrogation techniques" or operating "detention facilities or black sites". He also confirmed that the CIA retained the authority to detain individuals on a "short-term transitory basis".