For Immediate Release: July 7, 2009
Washington, DC - Human Rights First today urged Congress to abandon the use of military commissions to prosecute suspected terrorists, warning that the system is at odds with the Constitution, the laws of war, and American values. The call came as both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties prepare to hold hearings this week to examine the use of military commissions.
Noting the existence of widespread international skepticism about the United States’ use of military commissions, Human Rights First stated that continuing to prosecute terrorists using this model will undermine President Obama’s ongoing efforts to ‘enlist the power of our fundamental values.’ For example, the ban on the use of coerced statements as evidence is a fundamental tenet of due process that military commissions do not respect. For more than 60 years, the Supreme Court has held that it is the prohibition of coerced evidence that distinguishes the American system from those of abusive governments where police bring suspects into custody and “wring from them confessions by physical or mental torture.” Human Rights First today said that bending such laws will do little to protect American lives, but will instead turn military commissions into a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists.
”Military commissions lack domestic and international credibility,”said Human Rights First counsel Devon Chaffee. “By trying detainees before military commissions, the United States gives terrorist suspects the warrior status they so often seek and wastes an opportunity to delegitimize them as common criminals.”
Human Rights First has urged the Obama Administration and Congress to abandon military commissions and has convened distinguished military leaders who have joined in this call. The organization notes that military commissions are a nondurable solution that violate international law, lack domestic and international credibility, and are out-of-step with America’s long tradition of adhering to the Constitution and the core value of fairness. Alternatively, U.S. federal courts have a proven track record of successfully handling terrorism cases without violating basic due process.
For additional information, see Human Rights First’s Law and Security webpage.