A Joint Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Statement of NACDL
Washington, DC (April 3, 2008) – NACDL believes that every accused person has the right to competent defense counsel to prepare a defense. This is no less true for the Guantanamo detainees who face prosecution and possible execution by the U.S. government. In light of the government’s stated intention to seek the death penalty against the so-called “high value” detainees, it is critical to America’s international reputation that these individuals have access to defense teams with resources that are at least on par with any other federal capital prosecutions.
Accordingly, NACDL is working to assemble fully-staffed and experienced defense teams. These teams will be available to augment military defense counsel, subject to request by military counsel and their assigned clients.
It is especially appropriate that the nation’s preeminent criminal defense bar association assists in facilitating representation for these detainees. The announced rules and procedures for these commission trials raise serious questions about the government’s commitment to constitutional principles that are the bedrock of American liberty. A vigorous and properly resourced defense is essential to contest these proceedings.
Military and civilian NACDL lawyers have been representing detainees for almost five years, in the civilian courts, before military commissions and in the federal courts and will continue to do so as part of our mission to ensure competent representation and due process for all. The association itself has filed nearly a dozen friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of military prisoners in the war on terror, including Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States, the case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the government goes forward with commission prosecutions and seeks the death penalty for any detainee, we feel obligated to marshal the resources of the defense community and render whatever assistance the military defense office requests on its own behalf and on behalf of its clients.
That will require funding. Capital cases are expensive, often prohibitively so. There is no realistic way to expect experienced capital defense counsel to devote many months defending a person on trial for his life in a courtroom far from home without support. NACDL will seek to provide that support.
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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.