Source: The News Online
June 14, 2006
From: Agence France-Presse
From correspondents in Washington
THE US Defence Department has suspended all military trials for "war on terror" suspects, including Australian David Hicks, at the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba.
The decision, announced after the weekend suicide of three detainees, came as the US Supreme Court was expected to rule imminently on the military tribunals' legality.
"All sessions in all cases currently referred to trial by Military Commissions are stayed until further notice," the Pentagon said in a statement posted on Monday but dated Saturday, the day the three detainees were found hanged in their cells.
The statement does not explain the reasons behind the suspension.
Only 10 of the 460 inmates held as "enemy combatants" have been formally charged since the camp opened in early 2002 at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Among them is Hicks, who is facing a military commission trial on charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy.
The former Adelaide meat processor has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since soon after his capture in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Hearings for some detainees were previously suspended pending a ruling from the top US court, but other sessions had continued. A decision is expected this month.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in March in a pivotal case brought by Guantanamo detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan that could determine the fate of the tribunals.
President George W. Bush's administration has come under pressure from human rights groups and even allies to close down Guantanamo.
Human rights groups said the suicides showed the inmates were in a state of despair because of the indefinite nature of their detention.
Before the three successful suicides on Saturday, the US military had reported 41 suicide attempts by 25 detainees.
The lawyers for the three dead detainees – two Saudis and a Yemeni – chided the military today for failing to notify them about their clients' demise for three days.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which said it represented all three detainees found dead in their cells on Saturday morning, called for an "emergency, independent inspection" of the Guantanamo facility to confirm the cause of their death.
The three were the first inmates to die at the detention centre since it opened.
Earlier, the Pentagon rebuffed calls by human rights groups for an outside investigation into the suicides.
"I wouldn't expect that," Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said. "The United States is very capable of reviewing its own procedures to determine whether or not any changes need to be made."
He said the incident "will be looked into appropriately".