October 16, 2012, New York—Today, in response to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Hamdan v. United States to invalidate the material support provisions of the Military Commissions Act, as applied retroactively, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement:
The Center for Constitutional Rights applauds the D.C. Circuit’s decision to challenge the Military Commissions Act (MCA) by invalidating material support as a substantive category of offenses triable retroactively by military tribunals. The ruling, however, does not go far enough as it falls short of addressing the fundamental problem at the core of this second-tier system of justice: the blurring of the combatant-civilian distinction in armed conflict. Upon this dangerous conflation balances the house of cards that is the military commission system. Today’s ruling pulls one of the key pieces out from under this questionable structure. But the battle to construct a system built on constitutional principles and international law is far from over.As CCR argued in an amicus brief submitted in this case, the men detained at Guantanamo are civilians under the laws of war and must be charged under domestic laws or released. Combatants are soldiers with a legal right to fight, and doing so is not a war crime unless they use prohibited means or methods of warfare. There is no other third category of participant in armed conflict. Yet President Obama’s military commission regime confuses the clear distinction between combatants and civilians, enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, selectively borrowing principles applicable to each category in order to perpetuate what is in effect, if not purpose, the “enemy combatant” regime of the prior administration. This dangerous conflation undermines a core purpose of the laws of war – to identify and protect civilians – which the United States helped to establish more than fifty years ago.It is time to dismantle the twin pillars of our post-9/11 detention policy: the Guantanamo detention facility and the military tribunal system. President Obama should fulfill his promise and bring Guantanamo’s disgraceful legacy to an end. This can start with the immediate release of the 86 men who military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have unanimously concluded should be released on the grounds that they pose no danger to the United States.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.