Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Military Executions

A couple of students asked the other day where the U.S. military would execute the al-Qaeda terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, if they were found guilty and received a death sentence.

I know that the military executes personnel at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas (though not since 1961 has a service member been put to death). But according to this article, apparently the U.S. Military would simply build an execution chamber at Gitmo, carry out the lethal injections, and bury the dead there as well.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — If six suspected terrorists are sentenced to death at Guantanamo Bay for the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. Army regulations that were quietly amended two years ago open the possibility of execution by lethal injection at the military base in Cuba, experts said Tuesday.

Conducting the executions on U.S. soil could open the way for the detainees' lawyers to go to U.S. courts to fight the death sentences. But the updated regulations make it possible for the executions to be carried out at Guantanamo.

David Sheldon, an attorney and former member of the Navy's legal corps, said an execution chamber at Guantanamo would be largely beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

"I think that's the administration's idea, to try to use Guantanamo as a base to not be under the umbrella of the federal district courts," he said. "If one is detained in North Carolina or South Carolina in a Navy brig, one could conceivably file a petition of habeas corpus and because of where they're located, invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court."

I'm not sure how accurate that last quote is, given the Supreme Court's decisions in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), Rasul v. Bush (2004), and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), but it's certainly possible.

And I'm sure it would open up an entire new wave of litigation regarding enemy combatants and the death penalty, regardless.

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