News Release ~ 05/31/2011

Defense Bar Opposes Guantanamo Death Penalty Proceedings 

Washington, DC (May 31, 2011) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) opposes military commissions and maintains that the federal courts have proven to be an unparalleled instrument for trying terrorism cases. That Defense Department prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty in such a flawed system is particularly egregious and possibly constitutes a new low in the recent history of American jurisprudence.

In response to the Pentagon’s announcement that it has preferred charges against Guantanamo detainees Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, NACDL President Jim E. Lavine issued the following statement:

“The military commission system is not about seeking justice as much as it is about obtaining convictions.

“Federal prosecutors have the tools for prosecuting persons believed to be terrorists, including over 40 specific terrorism statutes and nearly 100 other federal laws. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the federal courts have handled well over 600 terrorism and terror-related cases without security breaches and with just, reliable results.

“Should the convening authority pursue the ill-advised course of pursuing capital convictions for these detainees, NACDL is gravely concerned with ensuring that the commission proceedings comport with the American Bar Association’s Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases and the capital defense provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL’s 10,000-plus direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling more than 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system. 

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