Federal Courts Best Equipped to Handle al Libi Case

Former federal prosecutor, FBI veteran tackle interrogation and trial issues

Washington, DC – Human Rights First today decried calls for the United States to detain Anas al Libi, the alleged mastermind of the 1998 East Africa U.S. Embassy bombing, at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or try him in the failed military commissions system. The organization noted that other terrorists associated with the embassy bombings have been successfully tried and convicted in U.S. federal court and that al Libi’s case should not be delayed by moving it into the failed system at Guantanamo.

“The U.S. Embassy bombings claimed hundreds of lives. The victims’ loved ones deserve justice,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. “If there’s one thing we know the federal courts can deliver, it’s a safe, fair and efficient trial.  Military commissions simply cannot compete. There is absolutely no reason that al Libi’s case should be tried in a military commission or that he should be held at Guantanamo. He’s not a warrior. He’s an alleged criminal and he should be treated that way.”

Former federal prosecutor David Raskin added, “Al Libi has been charged with terrorism crimes in a civilian federal court since 2000, and that’s where he should be tried. Federal courts have experience handling hundreds of complex international terrorism cases, including many in which the suspect—like al Libi—was captured abroad in difficult circumstances. Al Libi’s charges relate to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, a terrorist attack for which many men have already been convicted in civilian trials in New York and imprisoned for life. Sending him to a military commission, a system with unsettled rules and no proven track record, offers no practical advantage to the government and will likely complicate what is already bound to be a complicated case. Judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers in the federal system have a wealth of experience in dealing with these types of cases and that is the system that should be used to prosecute al Libi.”

Human Rights First notes that federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since the 9/11 attack. These cases have been safely and successfully tried in 60 federal courts in 37 states. U.S. federal prisons currently hold more than 300 individuals convicted of terrorism related-offenses, including Zacarias Moussaoui, Faisal Shahzad, Ramzi Yousef and Richard Reid. In stark contrast, U.S. military commissions have convicted only seven terrorists and only three of them remain in prison.

Veteran Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) interrogator Joe Navaro notes, “Al Libi is purportedly being interrogated by the High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG), which uses lawful, rapport-based interrogation methods designed to secure reliable information consistent with our values. There is simply no need to send Al-Libi to Guantanamo or employ any harsh interrogation methods, both of which would be legally questionable and undermine any future ability to prosecute him.”


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Published on October 8, 2013


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