CCR Director's Statement on Defense Counsel for Guantánamo Military Commissions


Jen Nessel, [email protected] 

April 4, 2008, New York – Today, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement:

"I am pleased the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are joining the Center for Constitutional Rights in challenging the Military Commissions at Guantánamo and trying to provide adequate counsel for men facing the death penalty based on evidence obtained through torture. But amid all of the recent attention, our Nation must not lose sight of the critical failure of the Military Commissions: that the government has shamefully underfunded and understaffed the military defense counsel charged with representing the men while providing more than ample resources for the military prosecutors. Moreover, while they are dedicated and experienced attorneys, not one of the lawyers in the Office of Military Commission Defense meets the American Bar Association standards for minimum qualifications for trial counsel in capital cases.

The Military Commission system that CCR is currently fighting is cloaked in secrecy, tainted by torture, and stacked against the defendants. These are politically-motivated show trials created to allow the use of torture-induced and secret evidence that would never be permitted in a fair and regular criminal court. That the government has forced charitable organizations to step in to try to redress some of the imbalance is unconscionable for a nation that prides itself on providing fair trials.

Since 2005, CCR has been representing Mohammed Al Qahtani, one of seven men to have death penalty charges announced by the Military Commission Prosecutor.  Mr. al Qahtani was subjected to the “First Special Interrogation Plan” at Guantánamo, a regime of torture tactics approved by the highest officials within the Administration.  The politicized commissions in Guantánamo will never afford him a fair trial or achieve justice for this country.  The government is using the newly-created Military Commissions to deliberately hide its state-approved torture and the unreliable evidence obtained through it.  CCR and our partners will relentlessly work to challenge the Military Commissions, and to restore the rule of law and the integrity of our country.  

The Center began the legal battle over Guantánamo in early 2002. We’ve since organized and coordinated hundreds of pro-bono habeas lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantánamo in federal courts, where their cases deserve to be heard. We worked with co-counsel to represent the detainees before the Supreme Court in 2004 and again on December 5, 2007, arguing that the men have the right to challenge their detention in a fair hearing before an independent judge, and we await the next decision this spring.

Many cases of extremist violence have been successfully tried in U.S. and British criminal courts, with defendants now serving life sentences. If the government has a case against the men it seeks to charge before the Military Commissions, let them try it in a fair court instead of further undermining our credibility in the eyes of the world and dismantling the rule of law."

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


Last modified 

April 4, 2008