15 December 2009

Congressional members weigh in on SEALs case; suspected terrorist has more procedural due process rights than the Navy SEALs who captured him

Last Thursday several Members of Congress sent a letter to Army Major General Charles T. Cleveland, who is the Commander of Special Operations Command at the U.S. Central Command, regarding the prosecutions of Navy SEALs Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas. The letter can be found here.

The three Navy SEALs have been charged with alleged abuse of a suspected terrorist, Ahmed Hashim Abed, after they captured him. Abed has been largely identified as the mastermind of a horrific attack in March 2004, in Fallujah Iraq, where four American civilian contractors were ambushed and killed and their bodies hung over the Euphrates River.

If the three SEALs are found guilty by special courts-martial, and are sentenced to a subjurisdictional sentence (which is confinement of less than one year and no punitive discharge), they have no right to appeal in any military appellate court or the Supreme Court. Conversely, the suspected terrorist Abed has an absolute right to access American courts regardless of any sentence imposed if he is found guilty. Earlier this year the Cox Commission recommended, in a report, that Congress amend the law to permit all contested courts-martial the right to appeal in the military appellate courts as a matter of a right regardless of sentence.

The case has been discussed over on CAAFlog here, here and here. (I've also made a comment to one of those posts.)

It would be an absolute disgrace, and contrary to democratic principles of procedural due process, if these Navy SEALs are found guilty and cannot appeal a conviction to the military appellate courts whilst the alleged terrorist they captured and brought to justice has a free ride in our American court system. Our brave servicemembers and the American public certainly deserve better. Congress should take swift action to correct the procedural due process flaw.

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