Rights Group Welcomes Preservation of Civilian Court Option for Guantanamo Detainee Trials

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brenda Bowser Soder
bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460

Rights Group Welcomes Preservation of Civilian Court Option for Guantanamo Detainee Trials

WASHINGTON - Human Rights First welcomes President Obama’s anticipated signature
of legislation that will keep open the option of bringing Guantánamo
detainees to the United States for trial. Following yesterday
afternoon’s Senate passage of a homeland security appropriations
conference report that the House approved last week, the President’s
signature places some restrictions on transfers, but will continue to
allow detainees to be transferred to justice in U.S. civilian courts.

“It appears that the strong track record of U.S. civilian federal
courts in handling complex terrorism cases is beginning to win out over
fear-mongering on Capitol Hill,” stated Devon Chaffee, advocacy counsel
for Human Rights First.  “In this bill Congress has echoed President
Obama’s expressed confidence in the fact that U.S. civilian courts are
a proper forum for trials of Guantánamo detainees suspected of
terrorism crimes.”

Human Rights First noted that the homeland security appropriations
conference report shows progress in the right direction, but cautioned
that some lawmakers continue to actively pursue roadblocks to trying
terrorists in the U.S. justice system. For example, last week, Senator
Graham introduced an amendment on the Commerce, Justice, and Science
Appropriations Act that would prohibit the use of funds to try the
alleged conspirators in the 9/11 attacks in U.S. civilian courts.  That
proposal received criticism from four retired military leaders,
admirals and generals, who sent President Obama a letter urging him to pursue prosecution of the 9/11 defendants in U.S. civilian courts.

Yesterday beyond the halls of Congress, and in a move praised by
Human Rights First, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the
case of the Chinese Uighur detainees who cannot be repatriated to China
because of the risk of torture or other abuse.  Thirteen Uighurs remain
at Guantánamo though the Department of Defense has determined that they
do not pose a threat to the United States. Chaffee observed, “The
Supreme Court was right to take this important case. The
administration’s assertion that the Uighurs are free to leave to
Guantánamo Bay is clearly absurd.  The U.S. government illegally
detained these men and forcibly transferred them to Guantánamo — it is
the U.S. government’s responsibility to find a suitable site for their
relocation.”

Human Rights First has consistently called for Guantánamo detainees
to be tried in U.S. courts. In July 2009, the organization released In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Court –2009 Update and Recent Developments,
a comprehensive, fact-based assessment of the capability of federal
courts to handle terrorism cases written by former federal prosecutors
Richard B. Zabel and James J. Benjamin, Jr.—now partners at Akin Gump
Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.  For more information about this work,
visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/guantanamo/index.aspx.

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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.

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