U.S. lacks policy on housing detainees convicted in military commissions

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 12, 2010

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA -- The Defense Department has no written policy on how detainees convicted in military commissions should be housed after they are sentenced, despite a 2008 Pentagon directive to create a plan for such prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a military judge said.

"This is troubling," said Judge Nancy J. Paul, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, noting that two cases are being heard in commissions this month at Guantanamo Bay. She said "no written plan, no written policy or directive exists" about where to put convicted war criminals here.

The issue arose this week in the case of Ibrahim al-Qosi, a 50-year-old Sudanese man who cooked for al-Qaeda's inner circle in Afghanistan, and who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.

A jury of 10 military officers returned a sentence Wednesday of 14 years in prison for Qosi, but the plea agreement may call for a much shorter term. The Dubai 24-hour news network said the plea bargain calls for two years.

As part of the deal, military prosecutors said Qosi could serve his sentence in Camp 4, the minimum-security facility where detainees live communally.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which runs the detention facilities here, objected to that part of the agreement, which was backed by an order from the judge.

Paul revised her order that Qosi be kept in Camp 4 and instead said Wednesday that the court "highly recommended" that he not be kept in isolation. Earlier, a military prosecutor said that he misspoke if he created the impression that Qosi was guaranteed a place in Camp 4.

Defense attorney Paul Reichler agreed, albeit reluctantly.

"It was not very short of a 100 percent guarantee, but not 100 percent," he said, adding that it was nonetheless understood that "the United States would make its very best effort."

In August 2008, when another detainee, Salim Hamdan, was sentenced, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs said in a memo on Hamdan's incarceration that U.S. Southern Command, which includes Guantanamo Bay, and the Army should jointly come up with a policy on convicted detainees. "This has not been done," the judge said.

Officials at Joint Task Force Guantanamo had no comment.

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