July 28, 2009

CARDIN SAYS CIVILIAN COURTS HAVE THE CAPACITY TO TRY AND CONVICT TERRORISTS AND RESTORE THE RULE OF LAW

Hearing: "Prosecuting Terrorists: Civilian and Military Trials for GTMO and Beyond"

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) , chairman of the Judiciary Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, today called on the administration to expedite its plans to shut down the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. To facilitate that planning, Senator Cardin chaired a hearing with representatives of the Departments of Justice and Defense, along with other legal experts, to examine how terrorists currently being held by the United States and those captured in the future might be prosecuted, what type of legal protections may be needed in both civilian and military courts, and how both civilian and military courts are prepared to handle potential trials.

 

"Shortly after taking office, President Obama ordered the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility within one year.   I commended President Obama at the time for ordering the closure of the detention center.   President Obama sent a clear message to the world that we are re-establishing the rule of law in the United States, and that we, as a nation, will abide by our international obligations.   This is a complicated matter that needs to be done appropriately and effectively, but delay will not help restore our leadership position in the worldwide struggle against terrorism.

 

"Today's hearing reaffirms for me the central role that our civilian federal courts can play in prosecuting terrorists.  I want the U.S. Government to bring terrorist suspects to justice quickly and effectively.   We must remain vigilant after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation.   But the system we use must meet fundamental and basic rule of law standards.   Americans have a right to expect this under the Constitution, and our federal courts will demand it when reviewing a conviction.  

 

"Federal courts have the capacity, resources, and procedures in place to handle terrorism cases and violations of our criminal law, and have done so successfully for many years before the 9/11 attacks.  Properly redesigned military commissions may also play a role in prosecuting terrorists who violate the laws of war.  I look forward to working with the Administration and Congress as we re-establish the rule of law and bring convicted terrorists to justice in an efficient manner, and in a way that any convictions will be upheld by the courts as legal and Constitutional.   We would of course expect other nations to use a system that provides no less protection for Americans that are accused of committing crimes abroad and are called before foreign courts."

 

Last week, the Detention Policy Task Force issued a preliminary report, along with a protocol for the determination of Guantánamo cases referred for prosecution.   This protocol lays out factors that the Departments of Justice and Defense will consider in deciding whether to try a case in an Article III court or in a reformed military commission.   The protocol states that "there is a presumption that, where feasible, referred cases will be prosecuted in an Article III court, in keeping with the traditions principles of federal prosecution.   Nonetheless, where other compelling factors make it more appropriate to prosecute a case in a reformed military commission, it may be prosecuted there."