Timeline of Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions
In response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and subsequent military operations, existing migrant detention facilities at Guantanamo were repurposed to hold detainees in the “war on terror“.
Please see the timeline below to track important events concerning Guantanamo and the Military Commissions.
View the timeline of 9-11 hearing that occurred VS those that were canceled.
View the schedule for upcoming 9-11 hearings.
1900 – 2001
The new Republic of Cuba leases 45 square miles of land in Guantanamo Bay to the United States for construction of a naval station. Building on the naval station begins that same year.
Cuba and the United States sign a perpetual lease that rents the 45 square miles of Cuba to the US for $4,085.00 a year. The lease can only be terminated by mutual agreement.
Approximately 34,000 Haitian refugees are detained on the base after they flee a coup in Haiti.
More than 55,000 Cubans and Haitians captured at sea are kept at Guantanamo.
19 hijackers fly four planes into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, Killing 2,976 people
George Bush, the US president, issues a military order on the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain non-Citizens, in the War Against Terrorism.” The order authorizes the US to hold foreign nationals in custody without charge indefinitely.
A memorandum from the US Justice Department to the Pentagon explains that prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay are not eligible for habeas corpus rights because they are not on US soil.
The first 20 detainees from Afghanistan and Pakistan arrive at the temporary facility of Camp X-Ray.
The International Committee of the Red Cross begins visiting prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. On the same day, the Bush administration rules that Guantanamo prisoners do not qualify as prisoners of war and are not entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights files Rasul v Bush, a habeas petition, in the Washington circuit court on behalf of prisoners David Hicks, Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal.
US Federal judge dismisses the challenge to the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
The Bush administration announces new military tribunal regulations.
A memorandum from the Justice Department to then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advises that the president can authorize a wide range of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would not amount to torture and therefore not be prosecutable under US law.
Federal appeals court rules that Guantanamo detainees have no legal rights in the United States.
Bush designates six suspected members of al-Qaeda eligible for the first military tribunals since the second World War.
David Hicks (Australian) becomes the first Guantanamo prisoner to be given a lawyer.
Five military lawyers assigned to defend detainees say that they believe that some of the rules drawn up for the military tribunals are unconstitutional.
The Bush administration brings the first charges against detainees. al-Bahlul from Yemen and al-Qosi from Sudan are charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes.
Supreme Court rules in Rasul v Bush that the federal courts have the authority to decide whether non-US citizens detained in Guantanamo Bay are wrongfully imprisoned, and in Hamdi v Rumsfeld that the Executive Branch does not have the power to hold indefinitely a US citizen without basic due process protections enforceable through judicial review.
The Pentagon launches military panels, known as Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT). The tribunal involves three officers who present the unclassified summary evidence against the detainee and question him about his role in events. The three-judge panel then decides whether the detainee is an “enemy combatant” or if he may be released. They are permitted to rely on classified or coerced evidence against detainees denied legal representation.
US District Judge James Robertson orders the halt of the military commissions, saying they are unlawful and cannot continue in their current form.
The Supreme Court refuses to consider whether the government’s plan for military trials unfairly denies the detainees basic legal rights.
The CSRT process is completed. Of the 558 detainees assessed, 38 were judged as “no longer enemy combatants” and were made eligible for release.
Following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Associated Press, the Pentagon releases the most detailed and extensive list of detainees ever provided. It provides the names and nationalities of 558 detainees who’ve gone through a hearing at Guantánamo Bay.
The Defense Department releases another list of current and former detainees to the AP. It says this list of 759 names includes everyone who has ever been held at Gitmo, since 2001. The list does not include the names of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Ramzi bin al Shibh.
A report presented to the Senate Armed Services details the interrogation of the suspected “20th hijacker” in the 9/11 attacks, Mohamed al-Khatani.
Judge Robertson’s order to halt military commissions is overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court.
US Senate approves an amendment that continues to withhold the right for the prisoners to file habeas corpus petitions.
District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rules that the Pentagon cannot resume Hicks’s military commission proceeding until the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
The Detainee Treatment Act comes into law. The Act bans the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, but severely curtails their right to challenge their detention.
In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court places new limits on the government’s ability to try detainees in military tribunals and upholds their right to challenge their detention in federal court. Congress never established the tribunals, the court declares, and the process violates the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Bush repeals his February 2002 directive and accepts that the Geneva Conventions apply to detainees.
President Bush acknowledges that the CIA has held suspected terrorists in secret prisons overseas. He announces the transfer of 14 captured al Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Walid Bin Attash, Mustafa Hawsawi, and Ali Abdul Aziz, to Gitmo.
The Military Commission Act (2006) is passed by Congress.
President Bush signs the Military Commissions Act into law. The Act strips US courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus appeals from any foreign national held as an “enemy combatant” in US custody anywhere in the world. It also narrows the scope of the War Crimes Act, by not expressly criminalizing Common Article 3’s prohibition on unfair trials or “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”.
Susan Crawford becomes Convening Authority
All five 9-11 accused have a CSRT. Walid bin Attash admits to helping orchestrate the bombings of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998 and the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confesses to being the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
David Hicks is transferred to Australian custody.
Alleged 9/11 conspirators Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi are arraigned.
The United States Supreme Court rules on Boumediene v Bush and Al Odah v United States that detainees at Guantanamo Bay should have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in US Federal Courts through habeas corpus petitions.
Military Commission charges sworn against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Salim Hamdan is found guilty of five counts of material support to a terror organization, but not guilty of conspiracy. He is later sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi tell a judge that they want to make a full confession.
Convening Authority Susan Crawford responding as to why she did not refer charges against alleged 20th hijacker Khatani: “We tortured Khatani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case [for prosecution] … The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent.”
President Obama signs an executive order to close Guantánamo Bay within a year (number of detainees now at 245).
Boumediene is transferred to France after his case had been used by lawyers to win the landmark Supreme Court case which ruled detainees at Guantanamo Bay had the right to habeas corpus.
The first detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, who is not an American citizen is brought from Guantanamo Bay to the United States to face a federal trial.
Military Commissions Act of 2009 is enacted
Attorney General Eric Holder announces that the five 9-11 accused will be transferred to New York City to stand trial in a civilian court. Five other detainees will be transferred to the United States and have their cases heard before military commissions. They are: Omar Khadr, Mohammed Kamin, al Qosi, Noor Muhammed and al-Nashiri.
The Obama administration announces that between 70-100 detainees will be moved to an empty prison in Thomson, Illinois.
Omar Khadr pleads guilty to all charges against him. Khadr is sentenced to 40 years in prison but will serve eight years as part of his plea agreement.
President Obama announces that the United States will resume the use of military commissions to prosecute detainees at Guantánamo Bay.
Attorney General Eric Holder announces that five detainees will face a military trial at Guantánamo Bay.
Nearly 800 classified US military documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal details about the alleged terrorist activities of al Qaeda operatives captured and housed at the US Navy’s detention facility in Guantánamo Bay. Included are intelligence assessments of nearly every one of the 779 individuals who have been held at Guantánamo since 2002, according to the Washington Post.
the five 9-11 accused are arraigned by military commission at Guantanamo Bay: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi
A US military appeals court vacates the conviction of David Hicks, an Australian who pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism. Hicks was the first detainee at Guantánamo to be convicted in a military commission.
President Donald Trump is inaugurated. Number of detainees remaining at Guantanamo = 41
pre-trial hearings for the 9-11 accused now enter their sixth year
This timeline is a compilation of public timelines available online by CNN, The Hill, and al Jazeera.