For Immediate Release: November 4, 2009
WASHINGTON The largest bipartisan group of prominent Americans to propose a plan for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has backed a single scheme for the disposition of cases of current and future detainees. Former members of Congress, diplomats, federal judges and prosecutors, high-level military and government officials, as well as national security experts (list attached) today backed a plan for the handling of detainees when the detention facility is closed.
“Some have opposed the closing of Guantanamo because they believe there is no viable alternative approach to handling terrorist suspects,” said Thomas Pickering, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations. “This declaration presents a careful plan for finally bringing terrorists to justice in full keeping with our Constitution, as well as for protecting our nation’s values, security, and commitment to our international obligations.”
Titled “Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration,” the effort is being coordinated by two organizations: the Constitution Project and Human Rights First. The declaration sets forth principles for dealing with present and future terrorist detainees upon the closing of Guantanamo:
- Indefinite detention without charge should be rejected because it will result in protracted litigation and delayed justice, weaken our alliances, and undermine constitutional principles at home; and
- Terrorism suspects should be tried in federal courts.
“If we’re looking for justice for the victims of terror, if we’re looking to securely lock up those who have committed or sought to commit terrorist acts against American citizens, our federal courts provide the proven and reliable way to ensure that justice,” said William S. Sessions, Director of the F.B.I. from 1987 to 1993. “The federal courts have a demonstrated track record in bringing terrorists to justice.”
“When the planners of 9/11, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are finally brought to justice, it will be an extraordinarily important moment in the struggle against terrorism,” noted Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy’s Judge Advocate General from 1997-2000. “If these trials are held before civilian judges and juries, it will highlight the strength and legitimacy of our system of justice, and at long last focus the world’s attention where it belongs: on the crimes these men committed against us, rather than on how we are treating them.”
In the eight years since the Guantanamo military commissions were created, they have secured the convictions of only three low-level terrorists. Federal courts, by contrast, have convicted 195 terrorism suspects in that same time frame, including 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid.
“This is a declaration by Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, who represent decades of government service and a longstanding commitment to law enforcement, justice, and our nation’s safety,” said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. “We have come together to make a stand for American values.”
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About The Constitution Project
The Constitution Project is an independent think tank that promotes and defends constitutional safeguards. The Project creates coalitions of respected leaders from across the political spectrum who issue consensus recommendations for policy reforms and conducts strategic public education campaigns to transform that consensus into sound public policy. To learn more, go to:
About Human Rights First
Human Rights First is a leading human rights advocacy organization based in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since 1978, we have worked in the United States and abroad to create a secure and humane world