For Immediate Release
President Obama Signs Military Commissions Changes Into Law
Fatally Flawed System Is Beyond Repair, Says ACLU
WASHINGTON - President
Obama today signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act
(NDAA), which includes significant changes to the Guantánamo military
commissions. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Obama
administration to abandon the fatally flawed military commissions
system and, where evidence of terrorism crimes exists, try the
Guantánamo detainees in federal courts.
The NDAA makes improvements to the
military commissions but fails to bring those tribunals in line with
the U.S. Constitution and international law under the Geneva
Conventions. It continues to apply the military commissions to a much
broader group of individuals than should be tried before them under the
Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and does not prohibit military
commission trials of children. The new law does, however, for the first
time require experienced capital defense attorneys in death penalty
cases, authorize more resources for defense counsel, impose new
limitations on the use of hearsay and coerced testimony and afford
greater access to witnesses and evidence for defendants.
The ACLU firmly believes that the
military commissions should be shut down for good as they remain a
second class system of justice that cannot shed the shameful legacy of
Guantánamo and all it stands for, rendering their results open to
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"It will be a shame if the law that
the president signed today gives new life to the military commissions.
The Obama administration has committed to closing the prison at
Guantánamo, but closing the prison will have little meaning if the
administration leaves in place the policies that the prison has come to
"While the new law addresses some of
the defects of the military commissions, it fails to bring the
tribunals in line with the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. The
commissions remain not only illegal but unnecessary - the federal
courts have proven themselves capable of handling complex terrorism
cases while protecting both the government's national security
interests and the defendants' rights to a fair trial."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.