Stimson apologizes to detainee lawyers for Guantanamo representation comments

[JURIST] US Defense Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs Charles "Cully" Stimson apologized Wednesday for remarks [JURIST report] he made last week criticizing lawyers at top US law firms for representing Guantanamo detainees pro bono. In a letter published in the Washington Post, Stimson wrote:

During a radio interview last week, I brought up the topic of pro bono work and habeas corpus representation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not.

I believe firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel. I support pro bono work, as I said in the interview. I was a criminal defense attorney in two of my three tours in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. I zealously represented unpopular clients -- people charged with crimes that did not make them, or their attorneys, popular in the military. I believe that our justice system requires vigorous representation.

I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs.
Stimson's original comments elicited harsh criticism [JURIST comment] from lawyers representing some of the detainees and strong rebukes from several legal groups, including the American Bar Association and 130 US law deans [JURIST report]. A number of critics said Stimson should be fired for expressing such views. The Pentagon has said that Stimson's comments "do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership."

 

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