ACLU Submits Recommendations for Military Tribunals; Urges Adherence to Bush Demand for "Full and Fair" Trials

January 16, 2002 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

ACLU Submits Recommendations for Military Tribunals; Urges Adherence to Bush Demand for “Full and Fair” Trials


WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Department of Defense to uphold American ideals – and international standards – of fairness, equal protection under law and due process when it establishes regulations for President Bush’s military tribunal order.

“The scope of the executive order allowing these tribunals is so broad as to undercut basic international and constitutional ideals of fairness and justice,” said Timothy Edgar, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Clear regulations need to be in place to guarantee that no innocent person be persecuted, incarcerated or executed by these tribunals.”

The ACLU’s concerns were highlighted in a letter sent today to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld; his department has been charged with drafting regulations defining the scope of the military order authorizing the tribunals.

The letter urged the department to follow through on recent assurances that the tribunals would adhere to constitutional and international legal requirements of procedural fairness and due process. Specifically, the ACLU called on Rumsfeld to guarantee access to effective counsel of one’s choosing, assure the presumption of innocence, adhere to the reasonable doubt standard and ensure that the tribunals be public. On the question of the death penalty, the ACLU urged the Department to prohibit the death penalty as a form of punishment available under the tribunals, or in the alternative, to require that anyone facing a possible death sentence be tried in an Article III court with all the due process protections available under federal law.

While each of the above requirements are being, according to recent media reports, favorably considered by Rumsfeld, today’s letter also spells out other basic due process protections that the ACLU argues need to be included in the implementation of the tribunals. These include the right of the accused to confront the evidence against him or her, the right to a speedy trial, a prohibition against evidence obtained through torture or coercive interrogation, insurance that the tribunals be impartial and independent of any improper command or political influence, strong limitations on the use of secret evidence and the opportunity for court review of the tribunals’ verdicts.

“While the ACLU continues to object strongly to the military tribunals as a matter of principle, if the government insists on their use, then these trials must conform to the fundamental guarantees of international law, reflected in our Constitution and our respect for procedural fairness and justice,” Edgar said. “To do otherwise would severely compromise our moral authority in the eyes of the law, the American public and the international community.”

The ACLU’s letter to Secretary Rumsfeld can be found at:

Also See ACLU Analysis on the Tribunals:

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release