9/11 Victims' Families Send Letter Decrying Politicization Of Guantánamo Military Commissions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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NEW YORK — Family members of 9/11 victims have sent a letter today to Susan Crawford, Convening Authority of the Guantánamo military commissions, sharply criticizing the politicization of the system. According to news reports, a Pentagon representative secretly invited an outspoken supporter of the military commissions to Guantánamo Bay for Thursday's arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other detainees on terrorism-related charges, but did not make this option available to family members who have expressed criticism of the commissions. This type of politicization is symptomatic of the unconstitutional and biased tribunal system, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The letter echoes the widespread call for a system to try the Guantánamo detainees that adheres to the Constitution, stating, "As people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we want nothing more than to see that justice is served in the prosecution of suspects. However, we know that no justice will come out of a system that has been compromised by politics and stripped of the rule of law."
The military commission proceedings have been subject to unlawful political influence since they started. After holding detainees for over six years, the government is now rushing through these cases, giving the defense just three months to prepare for a trial timed to begin only weeks before the November elections.
"The American public has every right to expect that prosecutions of 9/11 suspects will be conducted in a fair, open and honest manner that is not compromised by crass political considerations. Selectively inviting only 9/11 family members whose views are in alignment with those of the Bush administration is only one example of the repeated attempts to infuse politics into what should be an impartial process that has the goal of achieving justice," the letter stated.
Since the inception of the Bush administration's military commissions, a growing number of lawyers, legal scholars, government officials, military personnel and others have raised concerns about prosecuting detainees under a system that ignores the fundamental tenets of due process and allows the admission of highly questionable evidence - particularly evidence possibly obtained through torture. According to the ACLU, these cases belong in a civilian court of law or a traditional military court operating in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice that upholds due process and in which judges and attorneys are held to constitutional obligations and accountable to the rule of law.
In April, the ACLU launched the John Adams Project — a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) — to provide civilian legal representation to assist under-resourced military counsel of Guantánamo detainees.
For more information on the ACLU and NACDL's John Adams Project, see: www.aclu.org/johnadams
The letter is available online at:
Letter To Susan Crawford, Convening Authority, Office of Military Commissions
Susan J. Crawford
Department of Defense
Office of Military Commissions
1600 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1600
June 3, 2008
Dear Ms. Crawford:
Many of us learned for the first time this week that only one relative of a 9/11 victim was invited to attend the proceedings at Guantánamo Bay. The Defense Department’s belated disclosure that Debra Burlingame, a staunch supporter of this administration and the military commission system, was secretly invited to attend the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is but the latest example of a covert, politicized military commission system that has little hope of bringing any legitimate outcome.
As people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we want nothing more than to see that justice is served in the prosecution of suspects. However, we know that no justice will come out of a system that has been compromised by politics and stripped of the rule of law. Unfortunately, the government insists on trying those accused of participating in the 9/11 attacks in military commissions that operate largely outside the realm of public scrutiny and rely on confessions derived by torture, secret evidence that a defendant cannot rebut, and hearsay.
The American public has every right to expect that prosecutions of 9/11 suspects will be conducted in a fair, open and honest manner that is not compromised by crass political considerations. Selectively inviting only 9/11 family members whose views are in alignment with those of the Bush administration is only one example of the repeated attempts to infuse politics into what should be an impartial process that has the goal of achieving justice.
We know that we are not the only ones who object to the illegitimacy of these proceedings. Respected military figures as well as law enforcement officials like Janet Reno and William Webster have spoken out. And in an effort to make this system more in line with our constitutional values, the American Civil Liberties Union has assembled civilian legal teams to assist the woefully under-resourced military defense counsel. If the prosecution of these suspects is carried out in a manner that is not in accordance with American values of due process, the rule of law, and transparency, any verdict will lack legitimacy and we will be left to wonder if those responsible for the deaths of our loved ones have really been brought to justice.
Anne M. Mulderry
Mother of Stephen V. Mulderry
Mother of Firefighter Timothy Welty
Wife of Alan Kleinberg
Lorie Van Auken
Wife of Kenneth Van Auken
Mother of Police Officer John Perry
Wife of Richard Gabrielle
Wife of John F. Casazza
cc: Capt. Karen Loftus, DoD OGC