Civilian courts in the US, not military tribunals, should be used to try those facing terrorism charges, according to a report by former federal prosecutors.

In the report released on Wednesday, two former assistant district attorneys said civilian courts would produce reliable, fair results and still protect US national security.



Although the US justice system is flawed, it has managed to successfully handle a large number of important and challenging “terror-related” prosecutions, said Richard Zabel and James Benjamin from the New York law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld.

In contrast, the Bush administration’s military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been continually delayed.

The report examined 123 cases, including that of the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993 and the East African embassy bombings in 1998.

Legal frameworks

The report also said that many of the arguments used by the US authorities against trying suspects in civilian courts were not viable.

Prosecutors have access to a wide range of law enforcement tools, including specific “anti-terror” legislation, they have the ability to seek lengthy sentences for suspects.

They also have the legal framework in place – the US Classified Information Procedures Act – to balance the defendant’s right to a fair trial with national security concerns, the report said.

The two lawyers worked with the group Human Rights First to produce the study, In Pursuit Of Justice.

Michael Posner, president of Human Rights First, said that the current process to try such suspects, which includes detention in Guantanamo Bay, has failed in comparison with the criminal justice system.

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, George Bush, the US president, authorised military tribunals to try terror suspects, including those held at Guantanamo Bay following the US-led war in Afghanistan.

However they have faced constant legal challenges by lawyers representing those held and from human rights groups.

On June 5, five defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged planner of the 11 September attacks, are due to be appear before a US military judge in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on murder and conspiracy charges.