Special US terrorism courts would threaten Constitution: report

[JURIST] Special national security courts to try terrorism suspects are "unnecessary" and "dangerous to traditional constitutional protections," according to a report [text, PDF; advocacy press release] issued Monday by the Constitution Project [advocacy website]. The report was endorsed by a panel of national security experts and legal scholars including General Wesley Clark, Yale Law School dean Harold Koh, former FBI director William Sessions, and former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Patricia Wald. It criticized proposals for a hybrid court system [Salt Lake Tribune editorial] that would withhold certain traditional constitutional rights from terrorism suspects, saying that such a system would threaten the Constitution and the judicial process:

The idea that national security courts are a proper third way for dealing with such individuals presupposes that the purported defects in the current system are ones that cannot adequately be remedied within the confines of that system, and yet can be remedied in hybrid tribunals without violating the Constitution. We strongly disagree. Traditional Article III courts can meet the challenges posed by terrorism prosecutions, and proposals to create national security courts should be rejected as a grave threat to our constitutional rights.
The report comes after the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] earlier this month that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as enemy combatants.

In May, Human Rights First (HRF) [advocacy website] issued a similar report [text, PDF; JURIST report] stating that terrorism cases should be tried in the US federal criminal court system [official website] rather than by military tribunals or special terrorism courts.


 

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