Saturday, November 14, 2009

Detainees Will Be Tried In US Civilian Court

US Attorney General Eric Holder made a courageous decision to try the GITMO detainees in a civilian court. Courageous because most Americans disagree with Holder's decision even though they know nothing about the US laws and international treaties that apply to the detainees.  Worse yet, they probably don't care about the applicable laws and treaties.

Holder's opposition argues that the detainees will escape US prisons or other terrorists will invade the US in order to free the detainees. These are the same terrorists who are not already terrorizing our homeland because they can't. The detainees who are expected to escape our supermax prisons and professional guards have as yet to escape from GITMO's chainlink fences and military police.  But, our security is not the only reason given for not trying the detainees in the US.

US Senator James Webb (D-VA), past Secretary of the Navy, claims that trying the detainees in civilian court is "potentially counterproductive" by which Webb means that one or more of the detainees might not be found guilty by a civilian court. Either Webb has no confidence in our civilian courts or he IS confident that a military tribunal is the only sure means for finding all the detainees guilty. Webb isn't interested in being just, which should be as great a concern for Americans as for the detainees.  We aren't a just society unless we treat everyone justly. Anything less will not only diminish our society; it will diminish America internationally.

Of course, many conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, think that America is superior to all other nations and can and should when convenient act above our laws and international treaties.  These are the same people that accuse President Obama of "apologizing" to other nations for our past conduct.  These are the people that justified torturing the detainees.

I believe that a fair trial, whether military or civilian, will find the guilty detainees "guilty" and the innocent detainees "not guilty."  However, I think that the world and especially the terrorists should see the detainees tried fairly in a civilian court rather than a military court.  Our imprisonment of the detainees and our refusal to try them in a court are recruiting assets for the terrorists.  It is important in the war against terrorists to resolve the detainee issue in our civilian courts in full view of the world and our enemies.  Saddam Hussein was tried in an Iraqi civilian court rather than a US military court because Saddam's crimes were crimes against Iraq not the United States and unfriendly nations could accept Saddam's trial and punishment by his people but not by the US military.  Trying the detainees in our civilian courts rather than our military courts will make it more difficult for our enemies to interpret these trials as unfair.

I also believe that our security will not be at risk because we have detainees in US prisons.  I especially believe that should our courts find any detainee to be not guilty, that detainee will not be a risk if he is released in the United States, furthermore, I don't anticipate that a detainee released in the US will opt to stay in the US.  I would leave as soon as possible if I were in that position.  Not only would this person be unwelcomed by many Americans, he would also be in danger of physical harm.

I congratulate Eric Holder on having the courage to make the right, albeit very unpopular, decision.


Laura said...

Excellent blog and agree with all your points. Kudos to Holder and the Obama Administration for making the right decision.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm very happy that they won't be guilty before "proven" guilty.

Kansas Bob said...

I am glad that Holder is risking and dealing with its detainees. Ann and I were talking about it this morning.. we think that it is a good thing but had a few concerns:

1) The environment of Guantanamo will most likely be on trial and bad tactics like water-boarding could be used in the defense of those who executed the 9/11 massacres.

2) Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his cohorts will have a huge platform.. the trials could be a huge media circus along the order of the OJ trials.

Lastly I have to wonder how a not-guilty verdict for Khalid Sheik Mohammed would play out.. what if he got off on a technicality?

I guess I am just a bit nervous about how our court system will handle the trials.

All that said.. really maybe just some of my paranoia surfacing.. I have to say that Holder is doing the right thing. I agree with you Joe when you say:

"Our imprisonment of the detainees and our refusal to try them in a court are recruiting assets for the terrorists. It is important in the war against terrorists to resolve the detainee issue in our civilian courts in full view of the world and our enemies."

Joe said...

I'm not concerned with the platform that the detainees may have during the trial but I could be very wrong. I don't think there is anything that hasn't already been said many times. I think GITMO and enhanced interrogation did more damage than statements during the trial could ever do.

I don't know how Holder will deal with the issues you have raised. If the police extracted evidence from a suspect using waterboarding, that evidence would not be allowed and should not be allowed.

I expect the defending attorney's to ask that all evidence collected during illegal interrogations be thrown out. I don't know if the confessions of the detainees are true or false but we do know that some of the original detainees were innocent but held for years before being released. If I had been waterboarded I'm sure that I would have confessed to everything to stop the torture.

So, who are we to assume that because we believe the detainees to be guilty that all or any of them are?

This is a big reason why the Bush administration should not have tortured the detainees. It produced questionable results at best and the results should not be admissable in court.

If our justice system - not Eric Holder or the Obama administration - disallows all the evidence collected during "enhanced interrogation" then we should only blame the Bush administration.

I'm not picking on President Bush. The Bush administration admitted that it used torture when interrogating some of the detainees; Cheney has publicly admitted it and has not stopped defending it.

I don't want to let the guilty go unpunished but I have always said that confessions extracted with torture are worthless, just as worthless as they were during the witch trials. I can't now say that the confessions are good simply because I believe the detainees are guilty.

I assume that the prosecution will be able to provide adequate evidence of guilt without having to use the coerced confessions but only a trial will provide an answer.