Justice Department Official Tells Congress Due Process Applies To Guantánamo Military Commissions

July 8, 2009 12:00 am

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Calls For Indefinite Detention Cannot Be Reconciled With Constitution, Says ACLU

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WASHINGTON – In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill about the Guantánamo military commissions Tuesday, Justice Department official David Kris testified that the Due Process Clause of the Constitution should indeed apply to the commissions system. However, in other testimony, Defense Department official Jeh Johnson stated that the United States can continue to indefinitely hold detainees who have been acquitted of crimes.

In further hearings today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Denny LeBoeuf testified that the military commissions are inherently unconstitutional and cannot be fixed.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

"For the first time ever in a public setting, a Justice Department official testified that the Due Process Clause of the Constitution applies to the military commissions at Guantánamo and, as a result, that coerced evidence must be barred from military commission trials. But it is too late to fix this irreparable system that flies in the face of the most basic principles of our democracy and justice system. The military commissions system was set up to circumvent the law and the Constitution in order to achieve easy convictions, not to provide justice, and the results of such a sham system will never be legitimate. The only way for America to live up to its highest ideals is for the president to commit to ending the Guantánamo military commissions, trying detainees suspected of a crime in our federal court system, and resettling or repatriating those who are not charged and tried."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"Continuing to detain a person indefinitely without charge or trial for a crime for which he has been acquitted is absurd and unconstitutional. If the government has sufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges against prisoners held at Guantánamo, it should file those charges and prosecute the prisoners in ordinary federal courts. But the government should not be holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, and it should certainly not be holding show trials from which guilty verdicts will be honored but acquittals will be ignored. The suggestion that the government can protect the country only by disregarding the Constitution is an extremely dangerous one that should be unequivocally rejected."

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