Lawyers call for trial of ‘terrorists’

The Law Society and the Bar Council last week spearheaded international condemnation of the detention of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay.

In an open letter, signed at the annual general meeting of the American Bar Association (ABA) this week, the leaders of 28 law societies and bar councils worldwide call for the Guantanamo detainees to be allowed a trial in a civilian court.

The resolution to write the letter was proposed by Law Society president Edward Nally and seconded by Bar Council chairman Stephen Irwin QC. Other signatories include Hans-Jürgen Hellwig, president of the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (CCBE), and representatives from other European countries, the Caribbean, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

Welcoming the recent decision of the US Supreme Court to allow detainees the right to a hearing in US courts, the letter concluded: “The war on terrorism cannot be won by denying those suspected of terrorism the fundamental right of a fair opportunity to test the evidence against them.”

Despite the letter being penned in Atlanta, Georgia, the ABA is not a signatory. ABA president Robert Grey said the ABA recognised the international legal community’s interest in these “very important” issues. “Our position is reflected in the amicus brief that we filed in the detainee cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, which supported access to independent counsel and meaningful judicial review for non-citizens detained as members of al-Qaeda or alleged to have engaged in, aided or abetted acts of international terrorism,” he said.