For Immediate Release
Brenda Bowser Soder
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460
9/11 Widows, National Security Experts, Federal Prosecutors Say Fearmongering Must Stop
NEW YORK - National security experts, a former federal prosecutor, and 9/11
widows are calling for cooler heads to prevail as those opposed to New
York-based federal trials for the five Guantanamo detainees accused in
the 9/11 conspiracy ramp up their campaign of "fear and fables."
"Those opposed to federal court trials for these men have speculated
about a lot of things – our safety, procedural problems, time. I don't
want speculation. I want results. Since the 9/11 attacks, the only
forum that has given victims' families results in the war on terror is
our federal courts," said Lorie Van Auken, a 9/11 widow.
Monica Gabrielle, also a 9/11 widow, added, "Holding these trials in
New York City guarantees victims' families and New Yorkers a front row
seat to the justice we deserve and have waited for, for eight long
years. It will allow us to watch our Constitution fulfill its promise
of protecting our society, and it will mark another chapter in this
painful journey to justice."
In a recent study of 119 terrorism cases with 289 defendants filed
since 2001 in the normal federal court system, Human Rights First found
that of the 214 defendants whose cases were resolved as of June 2,
2009, 195 were convicted either by verdict or by a guilty plea. By
contrast, the military commissions are a failed system that has secured
only 3 convictions and their continued use threatens to perpetuate the
legacy of failed trial and detention policies at Guantanamo.
Van Auken is not alone is her support for bringing the federal
trials to New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles
Schumer, and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have all
voiced support for Attorney General Holder's decision to try the 9/11
defendants in federal court.
Retired Brigadier General James P. Cullen, a New Yorker and former
member of the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General's
Corps, agrees, stating, "I lost a good friend at the World Trade
Center, and I lost a good friend in Baghdad, but I think that the
symbolism of bringing these guys to trial in New York is as equally
important as assuring the world that when they are tried, they are
going to get a full and fair trial. Bringing them to New York, which
was the scene of the crime and the terrible incidents of September
11th, is particularly appropriate. When we convened the Nuremberg
Trials, we deliberately chose Nuremberg as the site where we were going
to convict those people who had formulated, and the symbol of the
formulation had occurred in the city where so much of the horrendous
work of the Nazis carried out was first imagined. I think we are going
to do the same when we bring these people to New York and conduct their
A chief concern among experts who support federal trials for those
accused in the 9/11 conspiracy is ending the misconception that these
men deserve "warrior status" – a distinction that has been one of Al
Qaeda's most effective recruiting tools.
From the organization's New York City office, Human Rights First
President and Chief Executive Officer Elisa Massimino concluded, "The
victims of 9/11 and the American public deserve to see justice done,
and the best way to achieve that is by prosecuting these men in a
credible criminal justice system where the focus will be on their
culpability, not on the legitimacy or fairness of the proceedings.
Moving these cases out of military commissions and into the federal
courts is smart counter-terrorism strategy. It treats the perpetrators
as the criminals they are and deprives them of the warrior status they
crave. This is an important distinction and will help thwart their
ability to recruit others to their cause."
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.