Basic constitutional protections for fair trial at stake
People For the American Way Foundation today filed an amicus brief  before the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case challenging the constitutionality of military commissions and procedures being used to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The brief was filed jointly by PFAWF and the American Jewish Committee, the Rutherford Institute, and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP of Seattle, Washington, provided pro bono assistance in preparing the brief.
The brief argues that the use of secret evidence and the military’s plans to try Hamdan in absentia for at least part of the trial are “incompatible with a fair trial,” and notes that the right of a defendant to hear and confront witnesses against him is one of “the fundamental guaranties of life and liberty.”
Chief Justice John Roberts was a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals when it ruled on the Hamdan case. The D.C. Circuit was “deeply mistaken” when it “shrugged” in the face of the government’s plans to ignore fundamental legal protections, says the brief filed today. Because he ruled on the case below, Roberts will not participate in the case as it comes before the Supreme Court.
The participation of People For the American Way Foundation and the Rutherford Institute, organizations at odds on issues such as church-state separation, indicates that civil liberties concerns about the administration’s tactics in the war on terror cut across normal political divisions.