The suspensions granted today apply to both the five men charged in the 9/11 attacks and to Canadian Omar Khadr, a young man who was captured when still a teenager. His case is the most critical at this point. His defense attorneys have evidence he was abused and tortured while in custody at Guantanamo, and while he should have been held in compliance with treaties and international agreements on the treatment of child soldiers, he's been held as an adult.
The 120-day suspension "has the practical effect of stopping the process, probably forever," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, Khadr's defense lawyer.
Khadr, a Toronto native, faces charges that include supporting terrorism and murder for allegedly killing U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a grenade during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan when he was 15.
Khadr, the son of an alleged al-Qaida militant who was slain by Pakistani forces in 2003, faces up to life in prison if convicted by the military commission. His lawyer says he should now be prosecuted, if at all, in a civilian court, though he would prefer to be repatriated to Canada.
"He is anxious. He doesn't know what's going to happen, none of us knows what's going to happen," Kuebler said after discussing the delay with the 22-year-old prisoner. "But we are all hopeful and somewhat optimistic that this ruling now creates a space for the two governments to do something constructive to solve this case."
The suspension allows the new administration time to determine how to proceed in these cases. In another development in the Guantanamo cases, the administration has announced that fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias is now part of a special prosecution team for Guantanamo detainees that will be determining how to go forward.
"One hundred percent of what I'm doing is prosecuting terrorist cases out of Guantanamo," he said.
Igleisas explained that he had already begun the work, having travelled to the facility once, and expecting to go back.
"It's the most significant set of orders I've had in my 24 years of navy service," he added. "The level of detail that I'm looking into some of these terrorist groups, it just takes my breath away."
And he signaled what seemed to be a change in tone from the Bush years. "We want to make sure that those terrorists that did commit acts will be brought to justice -- and those that did not will be released."
Those that are "brought to justice" should be given actual justice, tried in existing federal criminal courts. The military commission trials have proven to be little more than kangaroo courts, show trials devised for maximum PR benefit but not for justice. Any kind of continuation of the military commissions system doesn't provide the sharp break from Bush administration policies the world is asking for.
Update: Via Jeralyn at TalkLeft, Switzerland has stepped up to say it is willing to consider accepting Guantanamo detainees. Also, for reinforcement of just how critical it is that the kangaroo military commission trials end, read Glenn.