Washington, DC (November 13, 2009) – In light of today’s announcement by the White House that the alleged “high value” Guantanamo detainees charged with planning or participating in the 9/11 attack will now be tried in federal court rather than the constitutionally-defective military commission system, Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, released the following statement:
“Today’s decision by the Obama Administration to transfer five so-called ‘high value’ prisoners to federal court is a victory for the Constitution and a vote of confidence in the American criminal justice system. Dozens of cases, before and after 9/11, have proven that the federal court system is capable of handling terrorism prosecutions, with reliable and trustworthy results, and no compromises in security or due process. The death penalty proceedings at Guantanamo had virtually none of the protections guaranteed to all by the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights.
“The transfer of these cases to a federal court is one small, but critical step in the restoration of the dignity and reputation of the United States of America. For the past 8 years, the attacks of 9/11 undermined the Nation''s confidence in its constitutional underpinnings, and its criminal justice system. Today, that confidence, at least in part, is restored.
“I am proud of the military and civilian lawyers who collaborated in the John Adams Project and fulfilled the sacred obligation of the right to counsel throughout some of the most oppressive and arbitrary proceedings in the history of American justice. They are remarkable professionals deserve the thanks of the Nation.
“I now call upon the Department of Defense, the United States Attorneys Office and the District Court to ensure full and seamless continuity of counsel. The lawyers -- both military and civilian -- who have devoted so much to these cases and the cause of justice should remain at the side of their clients -- particularly those who have established relationships of trust and confidence. This too is a fundamental component of the Right to Counsel.
“America is showing the world that we intend to return to a system of justice that upholds the values we espouse for ourselves and for nations around the world. Therefore, when the defendants are arraigned and competent counsel are appointed to represent them, the John Adams Project will have achieved its primary goal – thwarting prosecutions that failed to meet basic standards of due process and the rights to confront witnesses, present a defense and effective assistance of counsel.
“Unfortunately, it appears that some individuals will still be subjected to possibly-capital military commission proceedings which do not comport with American values. The administration is perpetuating a flawed parallel justice system designed solely to convict, and the ACLU and the NACDL will continue to oppose it.”
The John Adams Project is a joint effort of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to provide expert teams of civilian capital defense lawyers to assist military defense counsel assigned to Guantánamo detainees in death penalty cases.
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