Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama Orders Changes in Military Commissions Rules

Updated May 15, 2009 – 1:42 p.m.

President Obama said Friday his administration would make several procedural changes to rules governing military commissions for suspected terrorists, requiring another delay in ongoing cases.

Among the changes are new limitations on the use of hearsay and coerced evidence.

“These reforms will begin to restore the commissions as a legitimate forum for prosecution, while bringing them in line with the rule of law,” Obama said. “In addition, we will work with the Congress on additional reforms that will permit commissions to prosecute terrorists effectively and be an avenue, along with federal prosecutions in Article III courts, for administering justice.”

Several key lawmakers applauded the president’s decision.

“I agree with the president and our military commanders that now is the time to start over and strengthen our detention policies,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “I applaud the president’s actions.”

Connecticut Independent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said, “I am very pleased that the president has decided that the military commissions are the proper forum to try prisoners captured on the battlefield in the war against those who attacked America. By taking this action, President Obama has reinforced that we are at war, and that the laws of war should apply to these prisoners.”

The military commissions at issue were codified in a 2006 law Congress hurriedly enacted after the Supreme Court voided a commission system unilaterally established by President George W. Bush .

Critics of the 2006 law say that it does not afford enough due process rights to detainees.

The administration directed prosecutors Jan. 20 to file a motion seeking to suspend military commission proceedings, pending a 120-day review. The Defense Department will ask for a further delay to allow for implementation of the changes, Obama said.

First posted May 15, 2009 1:19 p.m. at CQ

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