Debate Club

Guantanamo Military Commissions Have No Jurisdiction With Conspiracy Charges

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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.

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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.

Sterling Thomas

About Sterling Thomas Defense Counsel for 9/11 Defendant Ammar al Baluchi

Tags
courts
Guantánamo Bay
military courts
terrorism

Other Arguments

#1
50 Pts
The 9/11 Hearings at Guantanamo Bay Have Been a Fiasco

Yes – The 9/11 Hearings at Guantanamo Bay Have Been a Fiasco

Daphne Eviatar Senior Counsel Associated with Human Rights First's Law & Security Program

#3
4 Pts
Terrorists Shouldn't Be Tried in the Same Courts as U.S. Citizens

No – Terrorists Shouldn't Be Tried in the Same Courts as U.S. Citizens

Danny Gonzalez Director of Communications for Move America Forward

#5
2 Pts
Military Courts Can Only Prosecute Suspects Accused of War Crimes

Yes – Military Courts Can Only Prosecute Suspects Accused of War Crimes

Stephen Vladeck Professor of Law at the American University Washington College of Law

#6
-9 Pts
Federal Court Provides Best Chance for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's Conviction

Yes – Federal Court Provides Best Chance for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's Conviction

Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute

#7
-19 Pts
Mike Rogers: Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Is a National Security Issue, Not a Common Criminal

No – Mike Rogers: Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Is a National Security Issue, Not a Common Criminal

Mike Rogers Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

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