News / Africa

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

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid