Statement to Victims from the Defense and Justice Departments
Today at 11:00 am the Departments of Justice and Defense will announce forum decisions for ten detainees at Guantanamo Bay whose cases were previously charged in military commissions. The Justice Department intends to pursue prosecution of five of the detainees in federal district court, while the other five will be prosecuted in military commissions consistent with the reforms to the military commission system recently enacted by Congress.
The cases are as follows:
The 9/11 Attack
The Attorney General has determined, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, that the United States government will pursue a prosecution in federal court against five detainees who are currently charged in military commissions with conspiring to commit the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 individuals. These detainees are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.
The Department of Justice intends to pursue a prosecution against these five individuals in the Southern District of New York as soon as possible. Prosecution of these detainees will be co-managed by teams from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia, along with military commissions prosecutors who are now prosecuting the commissions cases. These detainees will be transferred to the United States for trial after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress, are satisfied, and consultations with state and local authorities have been completed. The detainees will be housed in a federal detention facility in New York, which includes maximum security units that have securely held terrorism suspects in the past. When federal charges are brought against these detainees, military commission charges now pending against them will be withdrawn.
The Justice Department will contact 9/11 victims very soon to provide additional information about victims’ rights during the prosecution.
The Attack on the U.S.S. Cole
The Attorney General has also determined, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, that the prosecution of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was previously charged with orchestrating the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured more than 37 others, may be pursued in the military commissions forum, consistent with the reforms to the military commission system recently enacted by Congress.
At this time, there has been no final determination on the future location of military commission trials. As with the detainees whose cases will be pursued in federal court, these detainees may only be transferred to the United States for trial in military commissions after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress, are satisfied, and consultations with state and local authorities have been completed.
Karen Loftus, Victim Witness Liaison for the Office of Military Commissions, will continue to provide victims in the USS Cole prosecution with information and assistance concerning future developments.
Decisions in Other Cases
In addition, the Attorney General determined, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, that the prosecutions of four other detainees previously charged in the military commissions may be pursued in that forum going forward.
Those detainees are:
- Omar Ahmed Khadr (accused of joining an al-Qaeda cell that constructed improvised explosive devices and killing a U.S. Army sergeant in a grenade attack in Afghanistan in 2002).
- Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi (accused of participating in an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz)
- Noor Uthman Mohammad (accused of serving as a trainer and deputy commander at al-Qaeda’s Khalden training camp in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2000)
- Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi (accused of serving as a financial manager of al-Qaeda’s front organizations and a personal bodyguard for Usama bin Laden)
No decision on detainees suspected in the Bali bombings and the 2003 Jakarta Marriott bombing will be announced today. The Departments of Justice and Defense intend to announce additional decisions on the prosecution of other Guantanamo Bay detainees in the near future and are committed to moving forward with charges and trials as soon as possible. We will keep victims informed as decisions are made and announced.
Federal Courts and Military Commissions
The Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense are confident that detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay can be detained securely in U.S. detention facilities and that their trials can be conducted effectively and safely in the United States, whether in federal court or in a military commission.
Over the past decade, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted many terrorism defendants in our federal courts. Today, there are more than 200 inmates who have a history of or nexus to international terrorism, who have been convicted in federal courts, and are now housed securely in Bureau of Prisons facilities, including Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Ramzi Youssef, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Ahmed Ressam, convicted in the millennium bomb plot; Wadih El Hage, convicted in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings; and Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted as a co-conspirator in the Sept. 11 attacks. The Department has already transferred one former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, to the Southern District of New York to face trial for his alleged role in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings.
With regard to military commissions, the reforms Congress recently adopted to the Military Commissions Act will ensure that commission trials are fair, effective, and lawful. Military commissions have been used by the United States to try those who have violated the law of war for more than two centuries. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Congress’ power to determine the need for military commissions and to provide their jurisdiction and procedures, and this Congress has recently reiterated its support for commissions in adopting important reforms to the Military Commissions Act. The Department of Defense is committed to ensuring that those defending detainees in military commissions have all the resources and expertise they need to handle these complex cases.
A Final Commitment
Finally, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense understand and share the concern of the victims of terrorist attacks about the length of time it has taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. Justice has been delayed far too long. Prosecutors in both departments are committed to moving forward with all these cases as quickly as possible and to working together to see that justice is served, consistent with the rule of law.
For More Information
The Departments of Justice and Defense will announce this decision through a press release which will be made public at 11:00 am. We will post a copy of the press release on this website as soon as possible thereafter, and you can read the release on the Justice Department website here. In addition, there will be a press conference including the Attorney General at 11:00 am. We expect that this press conference will be carried by several news outlets if you are interested in watching.