News Release

Guantanamo, the Rule of Law, and the Law of Nations

Washington, DC­ (January 22, 2009) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) congratulates President Barack Obama for the courageous executive orders he signed this morning and for his expressed willingness, in his own words, “to restore the standards of due process and core constitutional values” as his administration seeks to bring justice to the U.S. prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

NACDL President John Wesley Hall, of Little Rock, Ark., sent his own message of congratulations via e-mail to the president after the signing ceremony in the Oval Office. Hall wrote:

“Thank you, Mr. President, for making us proud to be Americans again. I am writing you as the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a professional bar association with almost 13,000 direct members in 28 countries, and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations with memberships totaling over 40,000 lawyers.

“I am a member of the bars of Arkansas, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where I am also the only American lawyer elected by the list of counsel to the ICC’s Disciplinary Appeals Tribunal. I spent approximately 18 weeks in Sierra Leone from 2004 to 2006 defending Samuel Hinga Norman, a former head of that country’s military, who was charged with war crimes, and I have great concern for the United States’ image at home and abroad.

“The principles of justice and due process once again can be the United States’ most cherished legacy and our most precious export. Indefinite detention is anathema to our Constitution, the rule of law and the Law of Nations. The prisoner review process needs to be implemented immediately, so that the prisoners may be released and returned to their homes, or, if evidence warrants, criminal prosecution in federal courts or courts martial. We hope that this review process does not in any way impeded the 200-plus habeas corpus proceedings pending in the federal courts and that you will show the same resolve in implementing a review process for the 600 prisoners at Bagram air force base in Afghanistan.”

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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.