News / USA

Possible Shift on US Terror Trial Alarms Human Rights Groups

Human rights and legal rights groups are urging the Obama administration not to change its decision to try the alleged conspirators of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States in the civilian court system as opposed to military commissions. The plea comes as senior administration officials reportedly are ready to recommend a shift back to the use of military commissions in the wake of a political firestorm that erupted over the initial decision by the Justice Department last November.

Multimedia

Audio

Last November, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that five alleged conspirators of the 9-11 attacks including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would go on trial in a federal court in New York City in connection with the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

But that decision may be about to be reversed, according to senior Obama administration officials cited in the Washington Post and by other sources.

A decision to reverse course could come as early as next week and would be the latest twist in a political firestorm that erupted over the issue of civilian trials since it was announced by Attorney General Holder last year.

The question of whether to try the alleged 9-11 conspirators in a civilian court or through a military justice track sparked an intense debate in Congress and on the nation's airwaves.

"I think trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York is a big mistake," said former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke recently on ABC's "This Week" program.  "It gives him a huge platform to promulgate his particular brand of propaganda around the world.  I think he ought he ought to be at Guantanamo.  I think he ought to be tried at Guantanamo in front of a military commission."

Vice President Joe Biden argued in favor of a civilian trial on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Under the Bush administration there were three trials in military courts," he said. "Two of those people are now walking the streets.  They are free.  There were 300 trials of so-called terrorists, and those who engaged in terrorist acts against the United States of America who are in federal prison and have not seen the light of day."

Reaction in New York City to the prospect of a trial in federal court was decidedly negative, both from local officials and the public.  And recently Attorney General Holder told the Washington Post that transparency was more important than where the trials will ultimately be held, a signal to many that the administration was considering a shift.

Human and legal rights groups have already issued statements urging the administration not to switch the trial venues from the civilian court system to the military.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that a regrettable reversal under political pressure will strike a blow to American values and the rule of law and will undermine America's credibility.  Similar comments came in a statement from the Constitution Project and Human Rights First.

Those who prefer to use military commissions to try suspected terrorists say the procedure offers more protection for the government to keep secret intelligence methods and sensitive information.

"The military version of that in the military commissions is far more protective in terms of the presumptions that are afforded to the government, far more protective of our national security secrets," said Charles Stimson, a legal expert with the Heritage Foundation and a recent guest on VOA's "Encounter" program.  

But other legal experts say the federal court system also includes numerous safeguards to prevent the disclosure of information related to national security.

Aitan Goelman is a former federal prosecutor now in private law practice.  He says the Obama administration will have a difficult time explaining to the world why some suspected terrorists should be tried in civilian courts and some in military commissions.

"There is no question that federal courts can handle cases against terrorists," Goelman said. "The question is at what cost and where is it smart for these people to be tried?  And I have not seen anybody from the administration kind of articulate a principled distinction between the people who they are sending to federal criminal court and the people who they say should be tried by military commissions."

If the change in legal strategy is announced, it may make it easier for the administration to secure funding from Congress to eventually close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The administration missed its self-imposed deadline of closing the facility within a year of Mr. Obama taking office.  Congressional opposition to the move intensified late last year after the attorney general announced the decision to try the 9-11 suspects in federal court.  

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid