News / Africa

US Federal Courts Built to Handle Terrorism Cases, says Law Professor

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

There’s been much debate over the decision to use a civilian court to try a young Nigerian accused of trying to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day.
   
Critics say Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been tried by the U.S. military as part of the fight against terrorism.  Abdulmutallab, who was on Detroit-bound flight 253, is charged with attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
   
There’s also the case involving five terrorism suspects, who will be tried in New York in federal court, following their detention at Guantanamo Bay.
   
Rule of law
   
The U.S. is prepared to handle terrorism-related trials, says David Crane, a professor at Syracuse University College of Law and former chief prosecutor for the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

  
“We still have to adhere to the rule of law.  I think that that’s really critical.  If we step away from the rule of law then we’ve kind of walked down the path that the terrorists want us to,” he says.
   
He says proceedings must follow the Constitution and the framework of domestic law.


Military vs. civilian
   
Crane says both military and civilian courts adhere to a strict rule of law.
   
“I actually was a judge advocate and practiced before military courts and they’re very similar to federal courts.  The military, the armed forces, really actually hold very fast to the rule of law.  It may be a different approach under the Uniform Code of Military justice, but in reality it’s very small,” he says.
   
Events since September 11th, 2001, may have shaped public perception of military courts for some.
   
“It’s interesting.  I think the image to the public has been skewed based on these military commissions that the president (George Bush) created back in 2002, 2003.  And their impression of military justice stems from that,” Crane says.
   
However, he says the Uniform Code of military Justice was amended in 1969, making military trials very similar to [trials in] federal courts.
   
“The problem is it’s not so much that the system is inherently wrong.  It’s not.  In fact, it is a very sophisticated system.  The issue is that the public doesn’t understand that and so it’s more of an education issue and a perception issue versus an actuality,” he says.
   
Interrogations
   
Some critics of the use of civilian courts to try terrorism suspects say there’s a lack of adequate interrogation.  They say much vital intelligence information is lost as a result.
   
The Syracuse University College of Law professor disagrees.
   
He says, “I do not subscribe to (former) President Bush’s comment: the rules have changed.  Having actually operated …in the world prior to 9/11, we in fact…used federal courts to prosecute these individuals and continued to get appropriate information without having to “torture them” or interrogate them in a way that tainted the process, tainted the perception of justice and also caused legal problems later on.”
   
He says it’s particularly important to follow the rule of law during times of crisis.
   
“I talk to my students about the U.S. Constitution as the great gyroscope that allows us to react to situations of national stress throughout our history.  But yet the Constitution is that center point, which allows us to remain as a free and open society,” he says.
 

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid