Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut), John McCain (R-Arizona), and Jim Webb (D-Virginia) today sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern over reports the Administration may try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other alleged war criminals in civilian courts. The Senators further expressed their belief that military commissions are the appropriate forum to try suspected terrorists and war criminals.
The Senators wrote:
“We write to you today to express our concern over reports that your Administration may prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and other alleged war criminals in civilian courts in Virginia, New York, and the District of Columbia. Such trials would treat the war on terrorism as a law enforcement operation, rather than a war, and would treat its alleged perpetrators as common criminals, instead of violators of the law of war.
“Military commissions have played a time-honored role in our country, from the time General George Washington relied on them during the Revolutionary War. The revised military commission procedures contained in S. 1390, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, not only meet but surpass the fundamental standards of fairness and due process required by our Supreme Court, the Geneva Conventions, and the rules of the International Criminal Court.
“Given the robust procedural and substantive rights now provided by this revised system of military commissions, and the sensitive nature of much of the evidence that would be brought forth, we are disturbed that your Administration has expressed a clear preference for prosecuting alleged war criminals in federal district courts in Virginia, New York, and the District of Columbia.
“We strongly believe that it would be unwise to try alleged war criminals in civilian communities with civilian juries, as do a significant majority of our colleagues. Indeed, last month the Senate adopted an amendment to S. 1390 that expresses the Sense of the Congress that military commissions are the preferred forum for prosecution for violations of the law of war. The revised military commission procedures are likely to become law in the coming months, and the courtroom personnel and facilities at Guantanamo Bay are ready to continue prosecutions at that point.
“The individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay are not held because of violations of domestic criminal law. They are detained because they have been found to be members of al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations, and have taken up arms against the United States of America. The forum for their trial should reflect the fact that these detainees were captured as part of a military operation and face trial for violations of the law of war. As a result, we urge you to prosecute these suspected war criminals by military commission at Guantanamo Bay.”