The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brenda Bowser Soder,,O -202/370-3323, C - 301/906-4460

Senate Blocks Amendment to Restrict Obama Administration's Ability to Prosecute Suspected Terrorists in Federal Court

Human Rights First Hails Victory for American People, Counterterrorism Efforts


Human Rights First today praised the Senate for blocking an
amendment that would have restricted the Obama Administration's ability
to prosecute suspected terrorists in federal courts. According to the
group, the amendment, offered by Senator James Inhofe to the Military
Construction, Veterans' Affairs, and related Agencies Appropriations
Act for Fiscal Year 2010, would have limited the President's ability to
employ one of the most valuable counterterrorism tools available -
criminal prosecutions - and would have needlessly impeded the
President's ability to resolve the problem of Guantanamo by disposing
of cases in a manner that comports with human rights standards and the
rule of law.

"Senate blockage of this amendment is a step toward putting to rest
a legacy of failed detention policy and is a victory for the American
people," said Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First's President and CEO.
"The detentions at Guantanamo Bay are a blot on the reputation of the
United States that harms U.S. national security and foreign policy
interests. Taking the men housed there and moving them into a court
system that has an exemplary track record for convictions is the wisest
course forward and one that should not be derailed by political

In a letter sent to Senators, a number of human rights
organizations, including Human Rights First, urged the Senate to block
passage of the Inhofe amendment designed to curtail the administrations
efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by
prohibiting the Department of Defense from using funds appropriated
under the bill to modify or construct any facility in the United States
to hold any of the Guantanamo detainees, including those charged,
tried, or convicted in Article III courts. The organizations
acknowledged widespread agreement among national security and foreign
policy experts that closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is
essential to U.S. counterterrorism efforts and to repairing the
standing of the United States as a country committed to human rights
and the rule of law. Among those who have espoused this view are
General David Patraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and five
former Secretaries of State from both parties.

Today's Senate action to block Senator Inhofe's amendment comes just
days after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to
transfer prosecutions of the alleged planners of September 11, 2001
attacks from military commissions to the federal courts, which have a
long track record of successfully trying terrorism suspects. It also
comes on the heels of a Senate vote to table an amendment introduced by
Senator Lindsey Graham that would have blocked the prosecution of these
defendants in federal courts.

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.