Charges against two prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been dismissed by military judges. Omar Khadr was 15-years old when captured fighting against American soldiers in Afghanistan. Salim Ahmed Hamden was reportedly Osama bin Laden’s driver in Afghanistan.
An Appeal of Hamden’s imprisonment led the United States Supreme Court to demand that Congress and the White House rewrite the U.S. policy toward prisoners at the detainment camp in Cuba. Hearings for the prisoners are being conducted under this rewritten law.
Military judges conducting preliminary hearings, have dismissed the cases against both men. The judges said the prisoners were not subject to the military tribunals. Specifically, the judges said the tribunals were created to try “unlawful enemy combatants.” Khadr and Hamden have previously been identified by military panels only as enemy combatants, lacking the “unlawful” designation.
The judges dismissed the cases “without prejudice,” meaning the United States could bring the charges again. Either the tribunals would have to be allowed to try “enemy combatants,” lawful or unlawful, or the prisoners would need to be reclassified as unlawful. Reclassification would be a long and costly process.
The lesson to be learned, in our everyday legal world, is that the state must charge and prove every element of a crime. Before going to court, if you don’t have a lawyer, be sure to read the law. If the state cannot prove any element of the crime, you may have a shot.