Saturday, 15 June 2024

Holder prefers keeping option of civilian courts for terrorism suspects

A proposal before the Senate to try all foreign terrorism suspects before military commissions would "seriously harm our national security," U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday, criticizing legislation introduced last month by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.).


"The proposal by some respected leaders in Congress to ban completely the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity obscures some basic facts and allows campaign slogans to overtake legal reality," Holder said at an awards dinner for the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal advocacy group. "There's no question that if such a plan advances, it would seriously harm our national security."

Civilian courts and military commissions are both effective weapons that should be selected case-by-case, he said. Civilian courts can consider a wider range of offenses -- giving the government more opportunities to disrupt plots and use leverage to negotiate cooperation -- and enjoy greater credibility with foreign allies with less likelihood of appeal until commissions become more established, Holder said.

Supporters of military commissions say that foreign terrorism suspects are enemy combatants in an open-ended war who should not be treated in the same way as criminals. They argue that evidentiary rules should reflect battlefield conditions, and they note that recent congressional reforms have solidified the legality of commissions.

SOURCE: Washington Post

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