Material Support Not a War Crime
August 20, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Joseph Margulies filed a motion asking the Court of Military Commission Review to vacate former Guantánamo prisoner David Hicks’s conviction in the military commissions for “material support for terrorism.” Hicks appealed his conviction in November, following the D.C. Circuit’s 2012 decision in Hamdan v. United States, which held that material support for terrorism is not a war crime and, thus, is beyond the jurisdiction of military commissions. Hicks’s appeal was stayed pending the ruling in Al-Bahlul v. United States, which similarly held last month that material support is not a war crime and cannot be tried by military commission. Hicks – who was also a party to the historic Supreme Court ruling in Rasul v. Bush – pled guilty in 2007, the first prisoner to be convicted in a military commission.
“The D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously that material support could not be tried in a military commission under any set of facts or theory of law before 2006. No matter how this case is framed, David Hicks was convicted of a non-offense,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Wells Dixon. “The principled and just result is to set aside his conviction without delay, as would happen in any ordinary criminal case. David Hicks committed no crimes, but has suffered horribly from his ordeal at Guantánamo, and he deserves relief.”
In a 74-page affidavit released in 2004, Hicks detailed torture he suffered at the hands of U.S. forces during the five and a half years he spent at Guantánamo, including beatings, forced sedation, and sexual assault. In 2007, he pled guilty while continuing to assert his innocence. According to Hicks, the plea was coerced and he only agreed to it because he believed it was the only way to get out of Guantánamo and escape the ongoing abuse and torture.
“I am looking forward to the day when I can finally move on with my life and put Guantánamo behind me. This is yet another step on the long road towards justice,” said Hicks.
After his release from Guantánamo, Hicks returned to his native Australia and was placed under a one-year gag order that prohibited him from speaking to the media. As part of his plea, he was also required to withdraw allegations that the U.S. military abused him and agree not to take legal action against the United States.
Joseph Margulies and military defense counsel Samuel Morison and Major Justin Swick are co-counsel in the case. David Hicks is represented in Australia by Stephen Kenny.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for nearly 12 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.