Guantanamo Military Commissions Have No Jurisdiction With Conspiracy Charges
Following the rule of law means Abu Ghaith has to be charged in the U.S. court system
March 12, 2013
On March 8, 2013, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was arraigned in federal district court in the Southern District of New York on the charge that from May 2001 to 2002 he participated in a conspiracy to kill United States nationals. Abu Ghaith cannot be tried for conspiracy in a military commission like the one currently underway at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Why? Because, at least here in the United States, "the rule of law" still has meaning. In January 2013 the D.C. Circuit court, which has appellate jurisdiction over the Guantanamo military commissions, ruled what most legal observers already knew: that conspiracy was not a crime under the law of war before 2006. Thus, the Guantanamo military commissions have no jurisdiction over the 2001-2002 conspiracy charge that Abu Ghaith faces. Bringing Abu Ghaith to federal court was the government's only viable option that incorporated the rule of law.
It should come as no surprise, as higher courts continue to strike down and overturn decisions of the Guantanamo military commissions, that the federal courts have again become the preferred method of trying those accused of terrorism. Some cheerleaders for the Guantanamo military commissions have questioned the federal courts' ability to handle high-profile terrorism cases because of concerns about physical security or handling of classified information. Yet, federal courts routinely handle terrorism cases large and small every day while following ancient legal principles like due process, equal protection under the law, and the right to privileged communications with an attorney. The Guantanamo military commissions have sacrificed these values and diminished our standing in the world without making anyone safer.