US Attorney General Eric Holder announced April 4 that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other co-conspirators will be tried before a military commission for their roles in the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Holder, who wanted the accused be tried before a federal civilian court, referred the cases to the Department of Defense after Congress imposed a series of restrictions barring the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees to the US. Holder said he refused to delay the trial any longer for the sake of the victims of the 9-11 attacks and their families, explaining that the restrictions are not likely to be repealed in the immediate future. While deciding to proceed with military commissions, Holder defended the federal judiciary, saying:
Too many people…have expressed doubts about our time-honored and time-tested system of justice. That’s not only misguided, it’s wrong. The fact is, federal courts have proven to be an unparalleled instrument for bringing terrorists to justice. Our courts have convicted hundreds of terrorists since September 11, and our prisons safely and securely hold hundreds today, many of them serving long sentences. There is no other tool that has demonstrated the ability to both incapacitate terrorists and collect intelligence from them over such a diverse range of circumstances as our traditional justice system. Our national security demands that we continue to prosecute terrorists in federal court, and we will do so. Our heritage, our values, and our legacy to future generations also demand that we have full faith and confidence in a court system that has distinguished this nation throughout its history.
Also on April 4, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York granted prosecutors’ motion to dismiss and unsealed the indictment of the co-conspirators, allowing the case to be transferred to the DoD. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spoke out against the administration’s decision, saying that the military commissions system is “rife with constitutional and procedural problems and undermines the fundamental American values that have made us a model throughout the world for centuries.”
From Jurist, April 4. Used with permission.