For Immediate Release
Statement of Daphne Eviatar as Ghailani is Sentenced to Life
NEW YORK - A federal judge today sentenced Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to life in
prison for assisting in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East
Africa that killed 224 people and wounded hundreds more. In November, a
jury seated in the federal District Court for the Southern District of
New York convicted Ghailani, a decision that marked the Obama
Administration’s first federal conviction of a Guantanamo Bay detainee.
“This was a victory for the United States and for the rule of law.
Ghailani received a life sentence for participating in a heinous crime,
after receiving a full and fair trial in our widely-respected federal
court system. Our government has just demonstrated that it has the power
to do what President Obama has long promised: fight terrorism and
provide justice in a way that is consistent with American values and
principles,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar, who observed
Ghailani’s trial and was in the courtroom today for his sentencing.
According to the Department of Justice, federal courts have convicted
more than 400 terror suspects since 9/11. Military commissions have
only convicted five, including three plea bargains and two men who have
already been released. Commission sentences for murder and material
support for terrorism have generally been much shorter in commissions
than in federal courts: 8 years (with only one year in U.S. custody) for
Omar Khadr, 2 years for Ibrahim al Qosi, and only six months more than
time served for Salim Hamdan.
“Military commissions are a newly-created court system that hasn’t
proven itself capable of credibly and effectively convicting terrorists,
or providing them a fair trial,” Eviatar added. “The civilian federal
court system, on the other hand, is a forum where the rules are clear,
the judges and prosecutors are highly experienced, and the outcomes
command global respect. By giving Ghailani the basic rights to which
criminal defendants are entitled in the U.S. criminal justice system,
and by excluding evidence that was derived from torture and coercion,
his trial now stands as a symbol that the U.S. supports and follows the
rule of law when it comes to terrorism and national security.”
“The Obama Administration should build on this momentum and take
steps to bring the remaining Guantanamo detainees accused of heinous
crimes to justice in our federal courts,” Eviatar concluded.
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.