A military judge on Wednesday ordered the US government to submit reports on Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] prison conditions and removed restrictions on communications between lawyers and detainees in a case involving five Guantanamo prisoners related to the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] terrorist attack. Army Col. James Pohl [Miami Herald backgrounder] will review more than 10 years' worth of reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website], the only human rights group that has had access to the base since it opened. Pohl will then decide whether the reports can be accessed by prosecutors or defense counsel in the case. The ICRC has objected to releasing its confidential records, but according to James Connell, an attorney for accused Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, the ICRC reports are the only historical record of the prisoners' time at the Guantanamo and may provide important insight into its extremely harsh conditions. Pohl also enabled defense lawyers for the first time to communicate by with the five 9/11 suspects they represent. Now Pohl, instead of prison guards, will be in charge of controlling mail.
Controversy continues to surround Guantanamo military trials. Last month Pohl refused to suspend [JURIST report] the pretrial hearings. In February Pohl ordered the removal [JURIST report] of any monitoring system that censors the public broadcast of the 9/11 military commission hearings. He noted that only he and the court security officer have the authority to turn on or off the light that would make the courtroom closed to public. The order came a day after the DOD released an excerpt of the transcript from the missing few minutes based on another order issued earlier that week. In the same month, Pohl denied [JURIST report] a defense motion requesting a finding that the US constitution was "presumed to apply" in the proceedings and that the prosecution must bear the burden of proving that any particular provision did not apply. In January a US military judge upheld [JURIST report] a request to censor 9/11 conspirators' testimony. In September last year a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia rejected [JURIST report] new restrictions on lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees who have had their habeas corpus challenges denied or dismissed. The DOD announced in 2011 that it had sworn charges against the five men [JURIST report] accused in the 9/11 attacks. In April 2011 US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [JURIST news archive] and the four others would be tried by a military commission [JURIST report] after the Obama administration abandoned attempts to have the 9/11 suspects tried in civilian courts.