Court’s Rejection of “Material Support” as a War Crime Invalidates Military Commission Conviction, Attorneys Say
November 5, 2013, Washington D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Joseph Margulies filed an appeal on behalf of former Guantánamo prisoner David Hicks seeking to vacate Hicks’ conviction in the military commissions for “material support for terrorism.” Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007. He was the first prisoner to be convicted in a Guanánamo military commission and a party in the historic Supreme Court ruling in Rasul v. Bush, which established that Guantánamo prisoners had a right to access U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The appeal comes in the wake of 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 beyond the jurisdiction of military commissions.
“The D.C. court’s rejection of material support as a war crime is a reminder that a military commission prosecution can unravel at any time” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Wells Dixon. “Years after Hicks was convicted and served his sentence, a federal court has concluded that the process by which he was convicted was unlawful. This is just another reason why Obama needs to end the failed experiment in Guantánamo.”
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, which included beatings, forced sedation, and sexual assault. In 2007, he entered an Alford plea, in which he pleaded guilty while continuing to assert his innocence. According to Hicks the plea was coerced and he pleaded guilty only because he believed it was the only way to get out of Guantánamo and escape the ongoing abuse and torture.
“Today is just the first step in a long process to correct the wrongs committed against me,” said David Hicks. “I was detained for six years without having committed an offense (as recognized by the CDPP in the proceeds hearing) and was tortured and pressured with duress into making unfair decisions which did not reflect the facts. I had no choice but to sign the plea deal or I would have died in Guantánamo.”
After his release from Guantánamo, Hicks returned to Australia and was placed under a one-year gag order prohibiting him from speaking to the media. As part of his plea agreement, 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.
Co-counsel in the case are Joseph Margulies and military defense counsel Samuel Morrison and Captain Justin Swick. David Hicks is represented in Australia by Stephen Kenney.
The case is Hicks v. United States
. More information, including today’s filing, is available here
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo, 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. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
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.