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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 28, 2014 at 7:04 AM

Bin Laden’s son’s trial: A fantasy world where civil and military courts coexist

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and spokesman. (AP)

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith enjoyed consideration under civil proceedings, but prior legal practice and the Geneva Conventions all regard terrorists as beyond the pale and outside civil laws [“US official: NY terror case a win for civil courts,” Nation & World, March 26].

According to Article 13 of the First and Second Geneva Conventions and Article 3 of the Fourth, terrorists are not the armed forces, militias, volunteer corps, insurgents, or freedom fighters of any country or authority. They are not organized movements carrying arms openly and having distinctive identifiers. These abominations kill people defined as “protected persons” by all Conventions, thereby leaving no basis for consideration even as prisoners of war.

However, even prisoners of war are excluded from our civil courts by the Constitution — a position reinforced by Article 84 of the Third Geneva Convention, which requires a country must expressly permit trial by civil courts. For that to occur, Congress would first have had to pass a law doing away with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As precedent, U.S. civil law was never applied to more than 400,000 legitimate Axis prisoners transferred here during World War II.

This miscarriage of justice occurs because the Supreme Court transgressed upon the exclusive power of the president as commander in chief to conduct military operations, including disposition of captives. The justices created a fantasy world where civil and military courts coexist with the same jurisdictions, and reserved for themselves the exclusive right to choose the legal venue.

Nolan Nelson, Eugene

Comments | More in Terrorism | Topics: Geneva Conventions, Nolan Nelson, Osama bin Laden

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