On July 14, 2004, the Department of Defense formally charged Salim Ahmed Hamdan with conspiracy, for trial by military commission under the President’s Executive Order of November 13, 2001. On October 22, 2004, General John D. Altenburg, the retired officer in overall charge of the commissions, removed three of the six original Military Commission members to avoid the potential of bias.
On November 8, 2004 the United States District Court for the District of Columbia halted Hamdan's military commission because no "competent tribunal" had determined whether Mr Hamdan was a POW (as required by the Geneva Conventions), and because regardless of such determination, the commission violated the procedures of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The Bush administration appealed the ruling.
In the meantime, the Department of Defense started Combatant Status Review Tribunals of all the Guantanamo detainees to determine whether each was an enemy combatant or not. The tribunals extended from July 2004 through March 2005.
On July 17, 2005, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the lower court's ruling against the military commission, and supported the government. The panel said that the Geneva Convention does not apply to members of al-Qaeda. John Roberts, soon to be appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was then one of the judges on the Court of Appeals. He voted for the government's position.
The military commissions were set back in motion at Guantanamo.
Responding to an appeal by Hamdan's attorneys, on November 7, 2005, the Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari, agreeing to review the decision of the DC Circuit Court. Roberts, now on the Supreme Court, recused himself due to his earlier participation in the case. On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the military commissions had procedural flaws and were invalid, as they violated the UCMJ and protections of the Geneva Convention adopted in both the US civil and military systems of law.
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