In the aftermath of the Islamic terror attack in Paris that left 12 dead, the Department of Defense is now requiring judges to move to Guantanamo Bay in an effort to shut down the prison by speeding up trials and clearing the backlog.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work signed a regulation Thursday which forces military judges to assign the highest priority to their cases, ending the previous arrangement of part-time work conducting judicial proceedings, the Miami Herald reports.
“This change makes the military commissions the exclusive judicial duty for the military judges,” said Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, the Pentagon’s spokesman for military commissions.
Despite congressional opposition, President Obama hasn’t show any signs of stopping. The next Department of Defense Secretary, Ashton B. Carter, is expected to move much more quickly than Chuck Hagel, as Hagel expressed concerns about the pace of the releases. Hagel’s resignation has given new momentum to the push to shut down the prison.
However, even a move as bold as the new regulation may not substantially speed up the pace. The new regulations allows for exceptions in the event of other, more pressing duties, and it will likely take months for judges to move, as they are domiciled in all areas of the world, from Washington, D.C., to Naples, Italy.
Work’s new regulation doesn’t state that hearings have to be held more often, but presumably, the full-time presence of a judge like Army Col. James Pohl will help mitigate the endless delays which have plagued court proceedings.
Pohl has been presiding over the hearings of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But since his arraignment at Guantanamo in 2012, there hasn’t been much progress in the case. Now that Pohl is mandated to live at the naval base until the case comes to a close, the administration hopes this will provide an incentive to wrap up trials quickly.
Not all of the delays can be blamed on legal squabbles in preliminary hearings. Sometimes Pohl couldn’t make it the hearings, which occur every other month, because of severe hurricanes.
There are still 127 prisoners left out of the original 679. Even if Obama succeeds in lowering the numbers by around a dozen this year, a projection of that rate reveals the prison will be around for quite a while longer. At any rate, Obama’s hope is that if he can lower the number to around 80, he’ll be able to make the economic case that costs exceed benefits.
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