Statement from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Regarding Pre-Trial Motions at Guantanamo, October 15-19, 2012
This week, pre-trial motions will be argued at Guantanamo Naval Base in the case of U.S. v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, et. al. which charges five men with having conspired to help carry out the 9/11 attacks. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows urges the American public to take note of the historic questions before Chief Judge Army Colonel James Pohl. His decisions will have tremendous impact on how the trial at Guantanamo is conducted, determine what information Americans and others around the world will learn, and help establish the level of integrity of the American legal response to 9/11. The ramifications will have an important impact on rule of law for all nations.
Our goal, first and foremost, is justice and accountability for the murder of our beloved family members on September 11th, 2001. To this end, we aim to ensure this Military Commission trial is fair, transparent, and strictly adheres to the rule of law. We have multiple concerns about the current proceedings, many of which are reflected in pending, pre-trial motions.
First, we support expanded public access. 9/11 profoundly changed the world, and the world should have access to America’s legal response. Global media outlets should be permitted to broadcast the proceedings that are transmitted via satellite to viewing locations that have been setup in the U.S. We should be highlighting the American system of justice, not hiding it.
Second, we seek transparency. While national security is certainly an issue, overzealous rules of classification should not be allowed to shroud the proceedings at Guantanamo in secrecy. It does not serve justice that all statements of the defendants are automatically “presumptively classified,” nor should defense counsel’s communications with their clients be subject to monitoring and censorship. On a matter of paramount importance, the ACLU and fourteen representatives of the American press will argue that defendants’ personal testimony concerning their experience of torture should not be classified. We agree. The defendants were tortured; U.S. leaders justified this as necessary to protect us. To suppress testimony about this torture denies all Americans the opportunity to learn about actions perpetrated in our name.
Third, we stand by the Constitution. Peaceful Tomorrows has long argued that the 9/11 suspects should be tried in federal courts. The Military Commissions currently fail to guarantee the fairness and respect for due process that federal trials would. Perhaps most egregious is the requirement that the defense counsel must notify and get permission from the prosecution concerning all expert or factual witnesses the defense wishes to question; yet the prosecution is not subject to the same requirements concerning its witnesses. This patent breach of fairness must be addressed. Peaceful Tomorrows supports the all-encompassing motion to recognize that the Constitution governs the Military Commissions, which we believe would help ensure fairness by bringing America’s long tradition of rule of law to bear upon the crucial 9/11 trials.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows believes justice will be served only if the highest legal standards are met. It is our right and privilege as Americans to live within a society bound by rules of law. It is our responsibility to ensure that alleged transgressors both follow and are afforded the same rules.
For inquiries, please call Donna Marsh O’Connor at (315) 559-2183 or the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows’ office at (212) 598- 0970.