John Adams Project Asks Federal Court To Halt Guantánamo Military Commissions

September 17, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – An attorney with the John Adams Project, a joint effort of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to intervene in the military commissions proceedings of 9/11 defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi and to halt the commissions and declare them unconstitutional. The John Adams Project provides lawyers to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel in the Guantánamo military proceedings. Earlier this month, military defense lawyers submitted a similar petition to the circuit court on behalf of defendant Ramzi Bin al Shibh.

Although President Obama ordered the prison at Guantánamo closed and the military commissions trials that take place there halted, the military judge at Guantánamo continued to schedule more proceedings and the commissions are currently set to reconvene on September 21. On Wednesday, the government filed a motion to further delay the proceedings in the 9/11 defendants’ case until November 16.

The presiding military judge in the 9/11 defendants’ case wrote in a July 2009 order that the military commissions system is one “in which uncertainty is the norm and where the rules appear random and indiscriminate.”

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

“The Guantánamo military commissions system – where the judge himself admits ‘uncertainty is the norm’ – is the very picture of lawlessness. We are taking the extraordinary step of asking a federal court to intervene and bring an end to the chaotic Guantánamo military commissions before they can further undermine American values of justice or further harm our nation’s standing in the world. The rule of law requires trials in which the law is established enough for defendants and their attorneys to plan a defense. Fair trials are impossible when the rules keep changing like they do at Guantánamo.

“The Guantánamo military commissions are not only unlawful, they are also ineffective. To date, the Guantánamo military commissions have only produced three convictions. But the U.S. has successfully tried over 100 terrorism cases in federal court, both before and after September 11. It’s time to shut down the broken military commissions and move these cases to federal courts where there are actual trials and real justice can be served. Our tried-and-true criminal justice system is more than capable of handling terrorism cases securely while providing fundamental rights and maintaining credibility.”

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