Obama Administration Moving Forward With Plan To Try Some Guantánamo Detainees In Military Commissions

January 20, 2011

Federal Courts Are Only Way To Achieve Real Justice, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK - The Obama administration is planning to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects, according to an article in The New York Times today. The Times reported that the administration is expected to lift a ban on bringing new military commissions charges and would then bring charges against one or more detainees, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi and Obaydullah within weeks. Al-Nashiri, who is accused in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, was waterboarded in U.S. custody and subjected to other well-documented torture and abuse.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced in November 2009 that the administration would continue to use the illegitimate military commissions system to prosecute some Guantánamo detainees. At the same time, Holder announced that the administration would prosecute the five Guantánamo detainees accused in the 9/11 attacks in federal court rather than the military commissions, but the administration has not acted on those plans.

The following can be attributed to Hina Shamsi, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project:

“Trying Guantánamo detainees in a system that is designed to ensure convictions, not fair trials, strikes a major blow to any efforts to restore the rule of law.

"The decision to proceed with commissions in cases such as al-Nashiri's raises serious questions about whether commissions are being used as a forum to hide the use of torture and base convictions on evidence that would be too untrustworthy to be admitted in any real court. Unlike federal courts, which have well-established rules of procedure and evidence, the military commissions rules do not comply with U.S. and international law.

“It is disappointing that the administration is determined to proceed with the discredited commissions but shows little appetite for following through on its plans to prosecute other Guantánamo cases in federal courts. If credible evidence exists against detainees, they should be prosecuted in federal criminal courts, which have a record of successfully completing hundreds of terrorism trials and are fully capable of protecting both national security and fundamental rights.

“Proceeding with the illegitimate military commissions system takes us back a step when we should be moving forward toward closing Guantánamo, ending its shameful policies and restoring the rule of law.”

Saturday marks two years since President Obama, on his second full day in office, signed an Executive Order to close the prison at Guantánamo.

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