Reprieve is dismayed by President Obama’s decision to resurrect ‘kangaroo court’ military commissions.

May 15, 2009

Image of a man, distraught, clutching to the bars of his prison cell

Reprieve lawyers today expressed shock that the Obama Administration is to establish new military commissions to try prisoners from Guantánamo Bay.

The Bush-era commissions are now acknowledged to have failed miserably. Even with Obama’s proposed improvements, they remain structurally dysfunctional and incapable of delivering justice.

Furthermore, Reprieve sees no legal reason why the prisoners from Guantánamo cannot be processed in the tried and tested American criminal court system.

“After years of working with these bizarre commissions, it is clear to us that they simply do not work,” said legal director Zachary Katznelson. “And unfortunately, the changes that the Obama administration has proposed do not even begin to address their failings. As a constitutional lawyer, Obama must know that he can put lipstick on this pig – but it will always be a pig.”

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith added: “Lord Steyn has called the military commission a ‘kangaroo court’ and he was right. Reviving these disastrous commissions is no way to restore confidence in American values. It is time for the US government to display faith in its own legal system and show the world it understands the meaning of true justice”.


For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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