A federal judge ruled yesterday that President Bush had overstepped constitutional bounds and improperly brushed aside the Geneva Conventions in establishing military commissions to try detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay as war criminals, the New York Times reports. The ruling by Judge James Robertson of U.S. District Court in Washington brought an abrupt halt to the trial of one detainee, one of hundreds being held as enemy combatants. It threw into doubt the future of the first set of military commission trials since the end of World War II as well as other legal proceedings devised by the administration to deal with suspected terrorists. The administration said it would seek an emergency stay and a quick appeal.
Robertson ruled in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan who is facing terrorism charges. Hamdan’s lawyers had asked the court to declare the military commission process fatally flawed. Mark Corallo, a Justice Department spokesman, said, “The process struck down by the district court today was carefully crafted to protect America from terrorists while affording those charged with violations of the laws of war with fair process, and the department will make every effort to have this process restored through appeal.” Judge Robertson said the administration could not try Hamdan before the military commissions set up after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but could only bring him before a court-martial, where different rules of evidence apply.