News Release

First Guantánamo Conviction Vacated; Further Evidence Military Commissions are a Failure of Justice

Washington, DC (February 19, 2015) – On Wednesday, a military appeals court overruled the conviction of David Hicks, the first person to be convicted of a war crime by a military commission at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In 2007, Mr. Hicks, an Australian, pleaded guilty to a single charge of providing material support to a terrorist organization. Mr. Hicks's conviction was overturned because the offense he was charged with was not considered a war crime at the time.

NACDL President Theodore Simon said: "The proceedings at Guantánamo lay bare the issues that come with trying to build a legal system as cases proceed. The decision to overturn Mr. Hicks's conviction is yet more evidence of the illegitimacy of the military commissions. NACDL has for years argued that the military commissions do not meet minimum due process protections and this latest decision reinforces that view. The military commissions stand in clear opposition to America's ideals of justice and the rule of law and should be halted immediately."

NACDL National Security Committee Chair Joshua L. Dratel, who represented Mr. Hicks at the trial level and on his habeas in federal court, said: "The result is deserved and long overdue. For more than a decade, the illegitimacy of the Guantánamo Bay military commissions has been transparent, and the reversal of David’s conviction provides more and abundant proof of that. It is unfortunate, of course, that this result comes after a decade-long struggle on his part, and cannot undo the physical and psychological suffering he endured as a result of his wrongful detention. The result is gratifying, although it is not a surprise. Rather, it serves simply as another glaring example of the procedural and substantive deficiencies that have infected the Guantánamo Bay military commissions from their inception, which continue to contaminate them, and which have served as a powerful propaganda tool for the U.S.’s enemies, as well as a license for official lawlessness by other governments and organizations throughout the world in the context of mistreatment of detainees."

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Isaac Kramer, Public Affairs and Communications Assistant, (202) 465-7656 or 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.