John D. Altenburg

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John D. Altenburg jr (b. June 10, 1944) was an US Army lawyer, who eventually rose to the rank of Major General.[1] His most senior post was Assistant Judge Advocate General. After his retirement he was chosen to be in charge of the "military commissions" that are to try selected individuals held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba.

The nature of the military commissions has been controversial.[2] The Bush administration has argued that the suspects must be tried by these military commissions, rather than in a court of law, so that the classified evidence used against them can be kept secret.

Commenting on Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention, which states that captives must have a "competent tribunal" convened if there is any doubt as to whether they are or aren't POWs Altenburg said:[2]

"In my personal view, the first time one of the guys says, 'I'm not Taliban or al-Qaida,' the doubt standard should be that low to have an Article 5 tribunal," Altenburg said, referring to the Geneva Convention tribunal."[2]


  1. John D. Altenburg, Jr. Appointing Authority for Military Commissions: Biography, United States Department of Defense, 2003-12-30. Retrieved on 2011-04-22. mirror
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Laura McCandlish. Detainments, Definition Of War Questioned, Daily Press, 2005-11-10. Retrieved on 2011-04-22. “John D. Altenburg Jr., the retired U.S. Army lawyer in charge of the trials of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defends the right of the United States to detain al-Qaida members during the time of war, but he raised questions about who the U.S. is at war with and how long that war will last.” mirror