April 4, 2011, New York – Today, in response to news that the Obama administration will try the 9/11 defendants in the military commissions system rather than Article III civilian courts, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
"The Obama administration all but admitted political failure today as it announced it would try the 9/11 defendants before the deeply flawed military commission system rather than in Article III civilian courts as originally planned. The announcement underscores the fact that decisions about whether to try detainees in federal court or by military commission are purely political. The decision is clearly driven not by the nature of the alleged offense, or where and when it was committed, but by the unpopularity of the detainee and the political culture in Washington.
"It also sets a bad precedent, as shown by Egypt’s apparent plans to use military trials for protesters at Tahir Square. In the same breath that the U.S. is calling for the rule of law in the Middle East, it is subverting it at home.
"The decision to abandon criminal prosecution of the 9/11 defendants in favor of a military commission undermines the prosecutorial discretion of the Justice Department and the independence of the judiciary.
"As Attorney General Holder and Secretary Gates explained in a February 2010 letter to Congress, eliminating federal court trials takes away the most effective tool for combating terrorism. As Obama said during his campaign, the existence of Guantánamo threatens our national security, as do the military commissions themselves.
"President Obama should have followed through on his promise to challenge the congressional ban on the transfer of men from Guantánamo to the U.S. for prosecution before caving to political pressure."
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last nine years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with an individual transferred from CIA “ghost detention” to Guantanamo. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.