Attorney General Stands Behind Use Of Criminal Courts For 9/11 Terrorism Suspects

April 14, 2010 12:00 am

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Holder Also Testifies Administration Will Continue To Hold 48 Detainees Indefinitely Without Charge or Trial

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WASHINGTON – While testifying today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the merits of his November decision to try the 9/11 suspects in federal criminal court, but acknowledged that the administration may still consider using the fatally flawed military commissions, instead. Holder said a final decision on which court system would be used for the trials was “weeks away.”

The American Civil Liberties Union strongly believes that the appropriate place to try these and all terrorism cases is in federal criminal court, and that the military commissions are unable to deliver effective and certain justice and should be shut down for good. Since 9/11, the military commissions have completed only three terrorism-related cases, with two of three convicted defendants already released. Federal courts, on the other hand, have successfully completed over 400 terrorism-related cases.

During his testimony, the attorney general also stated that the administration will continue to indefinitely hold 48 Guantánamo detainees that it believes are “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible to prosecute.” Holder also testified that the Principals Committee, a White House-based group of the heads of all departments and agencies involved in national security, “unanimously approved” the group of 48 and that the administration may make public its process this year.

The ACLU rejects the notion that there is a significant class of prisoners who simultaneously cannot be prosecuted or safely released and that detaining terrorism suspects without charge or trial is illegal and un-American.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“It’s very encouraging to hear Attorney General Holder once again defend his correct decision to use our federal criminal courts for prosecuting the cases of the 9/11 defendants. President Obama should fully support his attorney general’s principled decision and not compromise constitutional principles to gain political support on other issues.

“Federal criminal courts, not military commissions, are the right and effective way to handle terrorism suspects. Prosecuting these cases in federal court, rather than the inexperienced and unprepared military commissions, allows us to pursue real justice in a competent and proven system that can deliver reliable and trustworthy results.

“It was, however, incredibly disturbing to hear that the Obama administration will continue to hold a significant number of detainees without charge or trial, many of whom were presumably not captured near any battlefield. It would be a colossal error for the Obama administration to continue its predecessor’s policy of indefinitely holding terrorism suspects, whether at Guantanamo or on U.S. soil. Detaining individuals indefinitely without charge or trial is un-American and violates our commitment to the Constitution and due process.”

More information on trying the 9/11 suspects in federal criminal courts can be found at:

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