Pentagon postpones Guantánamo prosecutor’s retirement until 2019

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief war crimes prosecutor, briefs reporters on July 17, 2016.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief war crimes prosecutor, briefs reporters on July 17, 2016.

The Army has postponed the looming retirement of chief war crimes prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who will stay in the job “for at least another two years,” a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

Martins has had the job for six years. He was due to retire on Nov. 1, but instead, the Army “deferred” his retirement to Nov. 1, 2019, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson said in a statement.

Martins, 57, serves as both the chief overseer of war court cases and a case prosecutor in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole death-penalty trials. Neither trial has a start date.

One-star generals are time-limited in service and Martins had already received one extension past his initial retirement date in 2014.

Sakrisson said Wednesday: “While he, like any other military officer, is subject to reassignment at any time to meet the needs of the Department of Defense, the Army’s action serves to retain him as chief prosecutor for at least another two years.”

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Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for war crimes, at a May 6, 2012 news conference at Camp Justice, the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. WALTER MICHOT Miami Herald file photo

The Pentagon disclosed the Army decision four days after the Miami Herald reported that Martins’ future was still unsettled, even as as his office was poised to grapple with the surprise resignations of three civilian defense attorneys on the USS Cole case over an ethical issue. Prosecutors notified defense attorneys Friday evening by email that they were preparing to argue that only the trial judge can release veteran death-penalty defender Rick Kammen and two other civilians from the case.

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Martins is a West Point and Harvard Law School graduate. He was appointed to the job in July 2011 when former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was Deputy Defense Secretary. He has lectured and traveled widely in his campaign to argue the war court created by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and then reformed by the Obama administration, is a legitimate forum for terror and war crimes cases against non-citizens.

He was initially due to retire in 2014; the first extension kept him in place until after President Barack Obama left office.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg