Military Leaders Join Forces To File Brief On Behalf Of 'Enemy Combatant'

February 23, 2004
A powerful group of American military leaders, joining forces with academic experts on the law of war, filed a brief today in U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the government’s treatment of suspected “enemy combatant” Yaser Hamdi violates the Geneva Conventions.
 
“This is an astonishing group of people – American generals and admirals, international judges and prosecutors, prominent military experts – that has come together at this moment in history to say what has to be said,” said Jonathan M. Freiman, one of the attorneys filing the brief.  “Their message is clear: the Geneva Conventions are part of our law and they must be followed.”    
 
The retired military leaders banding together on the brief include Brigadier General David Brahms, who served as the senior legal advisor to the United States Marine Corps and the principal legal advisor for POW matters at Headquarters Marine Corps during the Vietnam War; Admiral Don Guter, who served as the Navy's chief legal officer in first two years of the Bush administration; and Rear Admiral John T. Hutson served as Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy from 1997 to 2000. 
 
Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen, has been held virtually incommunicado in a military prison for almost two years.  He was captured by Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan, but claims that he was not involved in hostilities there.  The Geneva Conventions and U.S. military regulations require that he be brought before a three-officer tribunal to determine whether he was a combatant and, if so, whether he is entitled to prisoner-of-war status.  But the government has refused to do that, and lower courts have so far said that the President may ignore the law if he wishes.
 
The military leaders were joined by George H. Aldrich, a former Head of the United States Delegation to the Geneva Conference on International Humanitarian Law; Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; Stephen Saltzburg, the General Counsel for the National Institute of Military Justice, and a host of academic experts.
 
Jonathan Freiman is an attorney in the national appellate practice at Wiggin and Dana LLP and a Senior Fellow at the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School.  With the brief, Freiman continues his high-profile work in the cases challenging the government’s most aggressive tactics in the war on terror.

He submitted an influential friend-of-the-court brief for the Cato Institute and Human Rights First in the case of Padilla v. Rumsfeld, which challenged the government’s power to hold American citizens incommunicado without charge or access to a lawyer, and represents an unprecedented coalition of religious, legal and human rights organizations in the Guantanamo Bay cases, which challenges extra-legal detentions at an American military camp in Cuba.  Freiman is available for further comment on the Padilla, Hamdi, or Guantanamo Bay cases.