News Release

Caution, respect for rule of law urged in decision on forum for terrorist trials

NACDL president calls for Congressional involvement 

Washington, DC (2001, exact date unknown) -- In response to President Bush's executive order authorizing military tribunals for trials of suspected terrorists, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Irwin Schwartz issued the following statement:

"The question of whether to remove the trials of persons who are accused of committing acts of war on America from our cherished criminal justice system is a complicated one.

"Congressional input was beneficial to the USA Patriot Act. The House and Senate should be consulted before such complex decisions as this one are made, just as they should have been consulted before implementation of the ill-advised regulations allowing monitoring of attorney-client communications without a court order.

"It is a dangerous idea to summarily dispose of the elements of fairness we demand from other nations, to ignore the role of international tribunals, and to give the impression, rightly or wrongly, that we have set up courts of vengeance, mere formalities preceding execution.

"Congress and the Executive Branch should proceed with caution. Full respect for the rule of law, both international law and our own rich tradition of respect for civil liberties and fairness, is essential. Abandoning legal safeguards is the wrong way to fight terrorism."

Schwartz is a criminal defense lawyer in Seattle. He can be reached at (206) 623-5084. 

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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 many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 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.