Washington, DC (May 3, 2012) – On Saturday, May 5, five Guantanamo detainees accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington will be arraigned for a second time before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“This is a new beginning for America’s recurring nightmare, I am sad to say,” said Lisa M. Wayne, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Contrary to federal civilian practice, pleas of guilty or not guilty are not traditionally entered at a military commission arraignment; however, this is Guantanamo and anything can happen, NACDL’s National Security Counsel Mason Clutter wrote in an email from Andrews Air Force Base this morning as she was waiting to depart for Guantanamo to attend the hearing. NACDL is recognized by the Office of Military Commissions as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) human rights observer.
In April, the Convening Authority in charge of the military commissions, retired Vice Admiral Bruce MacDonald, recommended that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-defendants face the death penalty if convicted.
NACDL maintains its position that the Guantanamo military commissions are inherently unfair and irreparably flawed. Evidence presented in any death penalty proceeding must be of the highest reliability. The system falls far short of bedrock American principles of fairness and due process. The commissions’ rules interfere with a defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him and still permit the government to introduce evidence derived from the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” albeit not statements made by the defendant himself. NACDL has also criticized rules promulgated by the base commander earlier this year which infringe upon the right to counsel by impeding confidential attorney-client communications.
“The commission system is a dead end for justice and the rule of law,” Wayne said.
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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.