International Law

ABA Offers Gitmo Tribunal Help, UK Bar Groups Voice Fairness Concerns

  • Print.

The president of the American Bar Association has written the president of the United States, expressing concern that six terrorism suspects detained at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in capital cases may not receive fair trials under current military tribunal procedures that don’t comply with established standards for death penalty cases.

And he offered up the ABA as a resource to ensure fairness.

“There can be no argument that detainees who plotted terrorist attacks against our country and killed thousands of innocent Americans should be brought to justice and be held fully accountable for their horrific crimes. At the same time, no matter how outrageous the conduct, we must ensure that detainees receive fair trials that meet the highest standards of due process and justice,” writes ABA President William H. Neukom in his letter to President George Bush. It was delivered yesterday to administration officials, according to an ABA press release.

Neukom offers in the letter to help the president “engage the most able legal minds to ensure that these cases comport with the rule of law, so precious to our democracy.”

Meanwhile, a group of 33 bar associations in the United Kingdom has gone a step further. They have written to Bush calling for the immediate closure of the Gitmo military prison, saying that the rule of law requires that any trials be held in the regular U.S. court system, reports the Lawyer.

“The military commissions are only authorized to try non-U.S. citizens, and we feel that it is inherently unfair to have one justice system for American citizens and another for so-called ‘enemy combatants,’ particularly when such a system has no basis in international law,” explains Andrew Holroyd, president of the Law Society of England and Wales.

The U.K. bar groups also sent their letter to the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, and called on Canada to repatriate Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen arrested in Afghanistan at age 15 who has been held at Gitmo for five years, so that he can receive a fair trial in his home country.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey visited Gitmo for the first time yesterday, touring the military base and meeting with military lawyers there who will be involved in the six trials. He does not appear to have spoken with the media since his visit there. However, “the government says the [six] men will be afforded the same rights as any soldier charged under military law, such as the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, and the ability to review evidence and call their own witnesses,” reports ABC News.

Additional coverage:

CNN: ” U.S. attorney general visits Guantanamo Bay”

Associated Press: “Mukasey Visits Guantanamo”

ABA Journal: “Iraq Is New Front in Detainee Battle” “Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor to Testify for Bin Laden Driver” “Pentagon GC Resigns, Faced Controversy Over Detainee Policies” “Capital Charges Announced Against Six Accused Sept. 11 Plotters” “Lawyers, Senator Suggest Treaty Bars Gitmo Trial for Child Soldier” “Khadr, 20, Starts 6th Year at Gitmo Jail”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.