9/11 Defendants To Be Tried In Federal Court
Military Commissions Will Be Used To Try Some Guantánamo Detainees
NEW YORK - In
a major victory for due process and the rule of law, the Obama
administration will announce today that the five defendants represented
by the John Adams Project who have been charged in connection with the
9/11 attacks will be tried in federal court rather than in the
Guantánamo military commissions. However, the administration will also
announce that it will continue to use the illegitimate military
commissions system to prosecute some Guantánamo detainees, including
the defendant accused in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. The American
Civil Liberties Union has been working through the Project, a joint
effort with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
(NACDL), to provide legal assistance to the five individuals accused of
masterminding the 9/11 attacks and other military commissions
defendants. The Guantánamo military commissions proceedings have been
plagued from the start with legal challenges and international
condemnation due to their disregard for basic due process rights.
"The transfer of cases to federal court is a huge victory for restoring
due process and the rule of law, as well as repairing America's
international standing, an essential part of ensuring our national
security. We can now finally achieve the real and reliable justice that
Americans deserve. It would have been an enormous blow to American
values if we had tried these defendants in a process riddled with legal
problems," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU.
"However, it's disappointing that the administration has chosen to
prosecute some Guantánamo detainees in the unsalvageable military
commissions system. Time and again the federal courts have proven
themselves capable of handling terrorism cases while protecting both
American values and sensitive national security information. Justice
can only be served in our tried and true courts."
Through the John Adams Project, the ACLU and the NACDL assembled a team
of trial counsel, mitigation specialists and investigators to work with
the under-resourced military lawyers in their representation of
Guantánamo detainees accused in connection with the 9/11 attacks and
other cases. The John Adams Project attorneys brought years of
experience in criminal defense law, including much needed expertise in
capital cases, to the defense effort. The Project's lawyers, who were
formally admitted by the presiding judge as part of the civilian legal
team, appeared before the military commissions on their clients' behalf
numerous times and filed over 80 pretrial motions in the proceedings.
Project lawyers spent hundreds of hours meeting with Guantánamo
defendants, and, in one case alone, made 20 trips to Guantánamo and
spent more than 225 hours meeting with the defendant. The John Adams
Project worked to bring some degree of fairness to the proceedings
while raising awareness of their serious deficiencies, and succeeded in
stopping the military commissions from fast-tracking to illegitimate
guilty verdicts and subsequent death sentences.
"Over $4 million of private money has been spent on what should have
been the government's legal responsibility, but we are gratified that
we averted a miscarriage of justice in sham proceedings," said Romero.
"We launched the John Adams Project because of our grave concerns that
the military commissions process does not reflect our country's
commitment to justice and due process. Through our representation of
these defendants as part of the Project, the ACLU has seen first-hand
the legal debacle of the military commissions and has repeatedly called
for their abolition. Moving these cases to federal courts will finally
deliver the justice that Americans deserve and can trust. We call on
the administration to reconsider the continued use of military
commissions and to rely on our federal courts that can finally deliver
the justice that Americans deserve and can trust."
With today's announcement that these cases will be transferred to
federal courts, the ACLU/NACDL John Adams Project will be formally
discontinued. The ACLU will continue to fight for a fair and
constitutional resolution of all detainees' cases, including the
provision of government resources for the defense of the detainee
accused of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole and others.
"America is showing the world that we intend to return to a system of
justice that upholds the values we espouse for ourselves and for
nations around the world," said Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director of
the NACDL. "Unfortunately, it appears that some individuals will
apparently still be subjected to military commission proceedings which
do not comport with American values. The administration is perpetuating
a flawed parallel justice system designed solely to convict, and the
ACLU and the NACDL will continue to oppose it."
For more information about the history of the Project, including
statements of support from prominent military and government leaders
and 9/11 family members, go to: www.aclu.org/johnadams
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.