News Release

Military Commission Rules ‘Designed to Convict' Experts Say

Washington, DC (January 18, 2007) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) today criticized the Defense Department’s Manual for Military Commissions, stating that the rules are unfairly weighted in favor of military prosecutors and were finalized without a public comment period.

“Given the level of national and international interest in the commissions and the legal background of the Military Commissions Act, the importance of notice and comment is unquestionable,” NACDL President Martin S. Pinales said in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week. The letter urged the DOD publish the rules in draft form for public commentary in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act. In enacting the APA, Congress recognized that notice and comment enhances the quality of rule creation and policy articulation, as well as public understanding and acceptance of agency actions. It was co-signed by Jack B. Zimmermann and Donald G. Rehkopf, co-chairs of NACDL’s Military Law Committee, which is reviewing the rules in order to advise commission defense counsel.

NACDL Board Member Joshua Dratel, civilian counsel for Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks, said after examining his copy of the manual, “the rules are designed to ensure convictions.” Hicks is scheduled to be among the first group of defendants tried by a commission, which will have the power to impose the death penalty.

“Hearsay, double hearsay, and coerced confessions are all admissible, including statements extracted from witnesses by torture. Given the shaky constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act, the detainees’ habeas corpus right The Military Commissions Act unconstitutionally denies the right of habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees. to challenge their detention – and the validity of any conviction -- is more important than ever,” Pinales said.

To read the Manual for Military Commissions, click here

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NACDL Communications Department

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 legal system.