Schiff Introduces Bill to Use Military Courts-Martial to Try Guantanamo Detainees

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff Introduces Bill to Use Military Courts-Martial to Try Guantanamo Detainees

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced legislation that will close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and make use of the military courts-martial to prosecute detainees who are unlawful enemy combatants.  Rep. Schiff’s Terrorist Detainees Procedures Act would ensure our national security needs are met and establish a level of due process that is consistent with our adherence to the rule of law.  Through the use of military courts-martial for many of the detainees, the United States will demonstrate to the rest of the world its commitment to human rights in granting terrorism suspects the same due process we guarantee our own troops when they are brought up on court martial charges. 

“The military courts have a long history of balancing the national security needs of the country with the need to provide a fair process to the accused,” said Schiff.  “I believe it is the best forum to adjudicate whether those detained at Guantanamo are unlawful combatants, and is also an appropriate venue for their prosecution.”

First, the Terrorist Detainees Procedures Act would require that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay be closed by December 31, 2009. 

The bill would replace the flawed Combatants Status Review Tribunals with a new status review procedure for all detainees. This review would be conducted by a panel of three military judges using established courts-martial procedures to determine separately if each detainee should be designated and then prosecuted as an unlawful enemy combatant. 
If the detainee is determined to be an unlawful combatant, the bill would require that they be:

  • transferred to a military or civilian detention facility in the U.S., charged with a violation of U.S. or international law, and tried by courts-martial or in federal court;
  • transferred to an international tribunal for trial;
  • transferred to a NATO-run detention facility or another country, provided they will not be tortured; or
  • held in accordance with the law of armed conflict until either the end of hostilities directly related to the person’s initial detention, or such time as the person is determined to no longer be a threat. 

In an effort to avoid a similar situation in the future, the measure also requires the President to submit a report to Congress containing recommendations on any Federal laws that need to be changed in order to implement a comprehensive detainee policy that addresses the apprehension, detention, and trial of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations. 

Rep. Schiff was the first in Congress to introduce legislation addressing the status of enemy combatants in 2002 and has introduced numerous bills on the issue subsequently.  Rep. Schiff is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, the Judiciary Committee, and the Appropriations Committee.  He also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles for six years successfully trying national security cases.