For Immediate Release
Al Qosi's Long Awaited Plea Deal Emblematic of Flawed Military Commission System
WASHINGTON - Nearly a decade after Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi's arrest and transfer to
the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, his military commission
proceeding has concluded with a deal in which he pleaded guilty to
charges of conspiracy and material support. This is only the fourth
military commission conviction and the first under the Obama
Administration. Al Qosi's sentence has not yet been announced.
"This is not a victory for the military commission system," said
Human Rights First's Daphne Eviatar. "In fact Mr. al Qosi's case is a
textbook example of the inability of the military commission system –
now in its third incarnation – to achieve swift justice. The case has
dragged on for more than six years without a trial. By the time he
entered his guilty plea today, the commission still hadn't decided
whether it even has jurisdiction over him."
Al Qosi was seized by U.S. forces on December 15, 2001, but was not
charged with a crime until February 6, 2004. Al Qosi was charged with
assisting al Qaeda by, for example, cooking and driving for its members.
Human Rights First today noted that it's not clear that the military
commissions have jurisdiction over such alleged "material support" for
terrorism. The federal courts, by contrast, have clear authority to
convict for material support.
Military commissions have now convicted only four people since 9/11.
Federal courts, by contrast, have convicted 400 terrorists. Human Rights
First noted the contrast between al Qosi's case and that of Faisal
Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber. Shahzad was arrested on May 3,
just two days after his car full of fertilizer started smoking. He
promptly provided information to federal authorities, as well as
confessing to the crime. He didn't even ask for a lawyer for two weeks.
After Shahzad did consult with a lawyer, he quickly decided to plead
guilty. On June 21, less than two months after his arrest, he pled
guilty to ten counts of terrorism. He now awaits sentencing.
"The Shahzad conviction was a model of efficient justice and
demonstrated that the United States does not need to rely on special
courts. Trying terrorism suspects in military commissions only grants
them a warrior status that they don't deserve. Our federal court system
is capable of handling terrorism cases and does so efficiently and
effectively," observed Eviatar. "Under our federal system, Mr. Shahzad
was treated humanely, read his Miranda rights, proceeded to cooperate
and then plead guilty. Given that he pleaded guilty to attempting to use
a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to kill and maim people in the
U.S., using and carrying a destructive device, transporting an
explosive device and attempting to damage building, vehicles, and other
property, he's likely to face life behind bars. That's how the American
justice system is supposed to work, for terrorists and for everyone
else. It convicts the guilty, protects the innocent, and gathers
information that helps law enforcement keep doing its job."
For more information about federal prosecutions of accused
terrorists, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/prosecute/.
To speak with Eviatar or Renee Schomp, Human Rights First's current
observer at the al Qosi proceedings, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder
at 202-370-3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.