News Release

Guantanamo Detainees Face Death Penalty


The Washington Post reports: “The Pentagon announced today that it has charged six detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison with conspiring to carry out the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that military prosecutors will seek the death penalty for each.”

Cohn is the author of the book Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She said today: “Prosecutors have a duty to give criminal defendants all evidence that might exonerate them. Yet the CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others that may well contain exonerating evidence. Before anyone is tried by a military commission, an outside independent counsel should be appointed to investigate the destruction of the tapes.”

Marjorie Cohn recently wrote the piece “The Torture Tape Cover-up: How High Does it Go?
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Ratner is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). He said today: “I’m appalled that the Bush administration plans to bring Mohammed al Qahtani, CCR’s client, to trial before a military commission, which I consider to be a sham process. As is well known, Mr. al Qahtani was tortured — the administration calls it enhanced interrogation techniques — and any ‘evidence’ from coercion is admissible before commissions. Commissions, built on a structure of torture and coercion, can never provide a fair process. Commissions allow hearsay evidence, allow secret proceedings, there is no jury and the judges are handpicked by the administration. It is a far cry from the due process required by our constitution, the Geneva Conventions and international law. On top of this kangaroo proceeding, the administration asks for the death penalty. Beneath the death penalty is an edifice of torture.

“This is an embarrassing and sad day for the country. For years the U.S. condemned military tribunals in Nigeria and Turkey. Now we’re setting the example that such proceedings outside the law are the way to do things. These commissions are barbaric. If you want to convict the right people you use a fair process. There is no reason these cases should not be in a federal court.”

Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Cole is co-author of the recently released Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror. He said today: “The Pentagon has raised the stakes in what is a high-risk gamble. It already confronts a huge challenge in convincing the world that any trial arising out of Guantanamo is fair, given its history of lawlessness there. The fact that these cases carry the death penalty, a penalty much of the world considers violates international human rights even where imposed after the fairest of trials, will only exacerbate the difficulties. This is not the way to reform our ways at Guantanamo.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167