Ruling lets U.S. restart military tribunals for detainees

Appeals court says plan passes constitutional test

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Bush administration's plan to convene military tribunals to try terrorist detainees at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay is constitutional, a decision that promises to jump-start a controversial and historic process that has been waylaid for eight months by legal challenges.

The unanimous decision by a three-court panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a lower court's ruling that the tribunals violated the Geneva Convention. The Circuit Court concluded instead that the Bush administration has the authority to bring Salim Ahmed Hamdan and three other detainees before tribunals, or military commissions, on war crimes charges.

The commissions would mark the first time since the close of World War II that prisoners of war and enemy combatants would be tried in a quasi-military court-martial setting.

The three judges also determined that the Geneva Convention does not apply in prosecuting such captives in the war on terror because they belonged to organizations such as the Taliban army and the Qaida terror network, which are not government entities or signatories to the Convention, which provides guidelines on how prisoners are to be treated.

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