Earlier today, Attorney General Eric Holder officially announced that the five defendants represented by the John Adams Project who have been charged in the 9/11 attacks will be tried in federal court, rather than in the unconstitutional Guantánamo military commissions. This is a clear victory for the rule of law, and we thank all of you who have supported the ACLU in our efforts to shed light on the injustices of the military commission proceedings at Guantánamo Bay.
Though our John Adams Project, a collaboration with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU has assisted under-resourced military defense counsel representing Guantánamo detainees accused in connection with the 9/11 attacks and other cases, in order to bring some modicum of fairness to the unconstitutional and unjust military commissions proceedings. We believe this effort succeeded in shining a light on just how unfair those proceedings are, and the need to move them to federal court.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement today:
Over $4 million of private money has been spent on what should have been the government's legal responsibility, but we are gratified that we averted a miscarriage of justice in sham proceedings. We launched the John Adams Project because of our grave concerns that the military commissions process does not reflect our country's commitment to justice and due process. Through our representation of these defendants as part of the Project, the ACLU has seen first-hand the legal debacle of the military commissions and has repeatedly called for their abolition. Moving these cases to federal courts will finally deliver the justice that Americans deserve and can trust. We call on the administration to reconsider the continued use of military commissions and to rely on our federal courts that can finally deliver the justice that Americans deserve and can trust.
But this victory is bittersweet, because Holder indicated that some detainees would be tried in the unlawful military commission system. As Glenn Glennwald pointed out this morning:
So what we have here is not an announcement that all terrorism suspects are entitled to real trials in a real American court. Instead, what we have is a multi-tiered justice system, where only certain individuals are entitled to real trials: namely, those whom the Government is convinced ahead of time it can convict.
[…]A system of justice which accords you varying levels of due process based on the certainty that you'll get just enough to be convicted isn't a justice system at all. It's a rigged game of show trials.
The ACLU will continue to push for the complete closure of Guantánamo, and an end to the military commissions and any system of indefinite detention. In the meantime, take the time to celebrate this victory for the rule of law.