The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

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

Military Commissions a Dangerous Choice for 9/11 Defendants

Would embolden U.S. enemies, delay swift and sure justice


Human Rights First decries today's reports that top advisers to
President Barack Obama will recommend that he reverse Attorney General
Eric Holder's decision to try the 9/11 defendants in civilian federal

"This is a defining moment for the Obama Administration. If he caves
to the politics of fear that have dominated this debate in recent
months, he will set a dangerous precedent for future national security
policy," said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino.
"The Obama Administration made the right call when it decided to bring
the alleged 9/11 conspirators to justice in regular federal courts.
Backing out of that decision now would demonstrate weakness and
embolden America's enemies. Bringing these cases in military
commissions gives these defendants the warrior status they crave."

Massimino continued, "The Attorney General decided to bring the 9/11
cases in our proven criminal justice system because it is best equipped
to render swift justice and protect the American public. The President
should support his decision and not put the most important criminal
case in American history in an experimental commission system that has
proven to be vulnerable to criticism, delay, confusion and justified
legal challenges."

Regular civilian courts have tried hundreds of terrorism cases since
9/11 and have secured convictions in over 195 cases involving
connections to Islamist extremist groups. In contrast, in the eight
years since President Bush first authorized the military commissions,
these commissions have brought only two cases to trial and yielded only
three convictions. Two of the men convicted in military commission have
already been released from prison. Moreover, the administration has yet
to issue rules to implement the new law Congress passed in November to
govern military commissions.

In a July 2009 update of the report In Pursuit of Justice,
Human Rights First studied 119 terrorism cases with 289 defendants and
filed since 2001 in the normal federal court system. This examination
of the ability of federal courts to meet the challenges of
international terrorism prosecutions was researched and written by
former federal prosecutors. It concluded that federal courts are
capable of handling these complex cases and are by far the best forum
for trying terrorists and securing convictions.

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.