Commissions Impossible: How Can Future Military Commissions Avoid the Failures of Guantanamo?

Military personnel and prisoners at the Guantanamo military commission

Aaron Shepard endeavors to examine the roots of the failures of the Guantanamo military commissions and suggest potential solutions to remedy them. His paper begins with an introduction to the concept of military commissions, including a brief overview of their historic utilization and import. It then provides a detailed background on Guantanamo Bay, covers the difficulties the Guantanamo commissions faced initially, and examines the current commission’s framework.

This analysis is followed by a deeper dive into the commission’s broader structural issues and examples of particularly problematic cases. Shepard’s conclusion proposes concrete solutions based upon fixes that are both implementable and politically feasible.

By Aaron Shepard

LL.M., University of Amsterdam; J.D., Columbia Law School; M.A. Military Operational Art and Science, USAF Air Command and Staff College; B.A. Government Studies, William & Mary. Aaron Shepard is a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He is also employed as a civilian attorney by the Military Commissions Defense Organization, a mixed civilian-military unit within the Department of Defense charged with representing detainees at Guantanamo, specifically representing Mr. Nazir Bin Lep and Mr. Ali Hamza al Bahlul. No confidential or classified information was used or disclosed in this paper. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense.

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