Military Trials Not Working in Guantanamo

The military commission trials at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay have been fraught with problems. Hearings are often cancelled at the last minute, and only eight people—of the hundreds who have been imprisoned there—have been found guilty. Two of these convictions were later overturned.

In Tuesday’s New York Times, Matt Apuzzo notes that trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts—an approach championed by outgoing Attorney General, Eric Holder—has been significantly more successful. Holder said recently, “We have honed an approach to apprehending, questioning and convicting terrorism suspects that I think will serve as a blueprint for years to come.”

Arguments against terrorism trials in civilian courts—that, for example, they pose security threats or inhibit intelligence-gathering—have shown to be baseless time and again, most recently with the conviction of Sulayman Abu Ghaith and the trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, which began in Washington on Monday. Beyond delivering justice to men who have languished for years without being charged, trying Gitmo detainees in civilian courts might pave the way to close the prison camp.

And it’s long past time to do just that. As Senator John McCain said, “Guantanamo Bay has become an image throughout the world which has hurt our reputation.”

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Published on October 22, 2014

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