Provision Would Block Federal Trials And Tie President's Hands, Says ACLU
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WASHINGTON – As a part of an omnibus spending bill, a provision was introduced today in the Senate that would bar the transfer of any Guantánamo detainee to the United States for any reason, including prosecution. The House passed a nearly identical provision last week as part of a continuing resolution on government spending. The provision, Section 12 of the bill, is the first across-the-board transfer ban. Previous Guantánamo detainee transfer bans passed by Congress have always included an exception for transfers for prosecution purposes.
The blanket ban on all transfers proposed in both bills would block the Department of Justice from criminally prosecuting terrorism cases in federal court and would likely force the cases into the inexperienced and unprepared military commissions. The White House and Department of Justice voiced strong opposition to the provision after it appeared in the House bill, saying it would “limit the tools available to the executive branch in bringing terrorists to justice and advancing our national security interests.”
The American Civil Liberties Union strongly believes that federal criminal courts, which have successfully handled hundreds of terrorism-related cases since 9/11, are the right and effective way to try terrorism suspects.
The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
“Congress should not be creating new obstacles to the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, nor should it needlessly tie the president’s hands when it comes to prosecuting suspected terrorists. Justice is long overdue in these cases, and that can only be achieved through fair and reputable trials in our criminal justice system. Prosecuting these cases in federal court, rather than the unconstitutional military commissions, allows us to pursue real justice in a competent and proven system that can deliver reliable and trustworthy results.
“We urge the Senate to reject this provision and not to block the best and most effective choice for prosecuting the cases of Guantánamo detainees.”