Al Bahlul Appeal Highlights Flaws in Guantanamo Military Commission
New York City – Human Rights First said that today’s decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate two of the three counts of the conviction against Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul highlights the problems of continuing to rely on the military commissions to seek justice for terrorism. Al Bahlul was convicted in a military commission of conspiracy to commit war crimes, providing material support for terrorism, and solicitation of others to commit war crimes; the latter two charges were vacated on appeal.
“There is no question that al Bahlul could have been tried in a U.S. federal court on terrorism-related charges and justice would have been served long ago,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. “Sadly, the same is true for all of the cases now pending before the Guantanamo military commissions. The Obama Administration should read today's decision as advice to bring all future terrorism cases in U.S. federal civilian courts, and to press Congress to allow the current commission cases to be transferred to U.S. soil for legitimate trials.”
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 eight individuals since 9/11 and two of those convictions have been overturned on appeal.
“As is plain from the court's divided decision in the case of al Bahlul, it remains unclear which charges can legitimately be brought in the Guantanamo military commissions and which convictions will stand up on appeal,” said Eviatar.
For more information or to speak with Eviatar, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.