Constitution Project Welcomes Federal Prosecution of Some Detainees While Denouncing Use of Military Commissions for Others

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mason Clutter, (202) 580-6930 or mclutter@constitutionproject.org

Constitution Project Welcomes Federal Prosecution of Some Detainees While Denouncing Use of Military Commissions for Others

Transfer of some detainees suspected of terrorism offenses into federal court consistent with policies called for in Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration

WASHINGTON - Today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will
face prosecution in a federal court in New York for the 9/11 terrorist
attacks. Also announced were plans for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a
suspect in the U.S.S. Cole bombing, along with four other detainees, to
be tried using military commissions. The Constitution Project welcomes
the decision to prosecute in federal courts some detainees suspected of
acts of terrorism, while expressing concern about the decision to
abandon that system for other detainees in favor of military
commissions.

"The Obama administration got this partially right,
but unfortunately, also partially wrong. Transferring detainees into
the federal justice system is the proper way to handle these cases,"
said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. "But
military commissions risk circumventing our constitutional system of
justice in favor of a system rigged for convictions and where justice
cannot be a result."

Just last week, over 125 prominent
Americans called on the Obama administration and Congress to support a
policy for closing Guantanamo that is consistent with our
constitutional principles and our country's security. Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration
was joined by former members of Congress, diplomats, military
officials, federal judges and prosecutors, national security and
foreign policy experts, bar leaders, and others.

"I congratulate
the Department of Justice for its decision to try high-level
individuals suspected of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.
justice system," said William S. Sessions, former director of the FBI,
federal judge, and signatory to Beyond Guantanamo.
"The federal courts are the right place for these trials, with the
appropriate experience in balancing the needs of national security and
the protection of classified information with the rights of the
defendants to a fair trial."

An effort coordinated by the Constitution Project and Human Rights First, the Declaration
supports federal court prosecution of terrorism suspects and opposes
indefinite detention without charge. Days after its release, it was
cited on the Senate floor by Senator Patrick Leahy, during debate on an
amendment that would have barred the transfer of some detainees into
the federal justice system for trial. Senator Leahy had this to say:

"We
have also seen a strong public declaration in support of trying
terrorism offenses in Federal courts, signed by a bipartisan group of
former Members of Congress, high-ranking military officials and
judges...Experts and judges across the political spectrum have agreed
that our criminal justice system can handle this challenge and indeed
has handled it many times already."

Responding
to John Cornyn (R-TX), who earlier today criticized the
administration's decision to bring the detainees to the United States
for trial, Declaration signatory Bob Barr, a former U.S. Attorney and Republican Member of Congress from Georgia, said:

"Trying
these individuals in federal courts for the heinous acts they allegedly
committed, is by no means treating them 'as common criminals,' as
Senator Cornyn inaccurately describes such process. Those federal
courts which Senator Cornyn impliedly disparages have in fact and
historically, tried, convicted and sentenced to appropriately lengthy
prison terms, individuals who have perpetrated serious terrorist acts
on our country and our citizens. It is mystifying why Senator Cornyn
today has so little faith in the ability of federal prosecutors,
federal agents, federal judges, and federal juries, to handle such
cases."

Daniel S. Seikaly, former federal prosecutor and CIA official, and another Declaration signer, said:

"I
am proud that the Obama administration has decided to try the cases of
high-level 9/11 suspects in federal court. However, I believe that the
decision to employ military commissions instead of the federal courts
for the USS Cole suspect and other detainees displays a surprising and
unwarranted lack of confidence in our constitutional principles. In my
view, the decision to circumvent a system that has served our country
well for over 200 years undercuts our assertion to other countries that
the rule of law is key to a stable and vibrant democracy."

To view the Declaration and a list of its signatories, go to:
www.constitutionproject.org

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The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at http://constitutionproject.org/.

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