For Immediate Release: February 27, 2009
New York, NY – Human Rights First commends the Obama Administration’s decision to end Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri’s illegitimate imprisonment without criminal charge for five years as an ‘enemy combatant.’
“Yesterday’s announcement that al Marri will instead face criminal charges in the tried and true federal criminal justice system is welcome news. That’s where this case started and that’s where it should end,” said Deborah Colson, Acting Director of the Law & Security Program at Human Rights First. “The federal courts have proven to be highly adaptive and flexible in delivering justice in complex terrorism cases. There was never any need – nor was there any legal authority – to label al Marri an ‘enemy combatant’ and hold him in military detention without criminal charge.”
Over the past year, Human Rights First has been at the forefront of a national debate over the fitness of federal courts to handle terrorism cases. In May 2008, the organization released a report, In Pursuit of Justice, written by two former federal prosecutors, examining more than 120 international terrorism cases prosecuted in the federal criminal justice system. Using case-specific examples, the report found that existing laws cover a broad spectrum of terrorism-related crimes and, in the vast majority of cases, provide an effective basis for detaining, monitoring and prosecuting terrorist suspects.
“President Obama has repeatedly stated his intention to employ the existing criminal justice system rather than ad hoc systems such as the military commissions,” added Colson. “The executive order closing Guantanamo, which stated a preference for federal court prosecutions, was a first step. The al Marri indictment is yet another indication that President Obama is sticking to his pledge.”