For Immediate Release: April 8, 2013
New York City – Today, following a hearing in the case of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, in a New York federal court, Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar issued the following statement:
“Once again, we saw an orderly, efficient proceeding in a U.S. federal court, where suspected terrorists are regularly tried and convicted without creating any security problems or other dangers here in the United States. Though the judge did not set a trial date today, he indicated that Abu Ghaith could face trial as early as September.”
“By contrast, we have 166 men locked up at Guantanamo Bay, many for more than a decade – the vast majority of whom have never even been charged, let alone tried. Many are now on hunger strike to protest what General Allen, commander of the United States Special Operations Command, called their frustration with the failure to close the prison. The Obama administration has appropriately recognized that it’s more effective and efficient to bring captured suspected terrorists to a real American justice system experienced in trying, convicting and imprisoning international terrorists, than to bring them to Guantanamo Bay. At Guantanamo, they face either unlawful indefinite detention, or questionable trials in the military commissions, where convictions are much more vulnerable to reversal on appeal.”
Human Rights First notes that courts have recently overturned two military commission convictions for Material Support for Terrorism and Conspiracy — the charge brought against Abu Ghaith in federal court – because these are not traditionally considered war crimes. There is no question that they are lawful charges in a federal court.
Human Rights First notes that federal courts have completed nearly 500 cases related to international terrorism since 9/11. Of those, 67 cases have involved individuals captured overseas, according to Department of Justice data obtained by Human Rights First in a Freedom of Information Act request.
Meanwhile, military commissions have convicted only 7 individuals since 9/11 – two of which, as noted above, have been overturned.
For more information about prosecuting terrorism cases, please see Human Rights First’s fact sheets Federal Courts Continue to Take Lead in Counterterrorism Prosecutions and Myth v. Fact: Trying Terrorism Suspects in Federal Court. For more information about Human Rights First’s plan for closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, please read the organization’s blueprint How to Close Guantanamo.