UN human rights expert concerned over military order signed by US President

16 November 2001

A United Nations human rights expert today expressed concern over a military order recently signed by the United States President, saying it strikes at core principles of the rule of law.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy, today sent an urgent appeal to the United States Government regarding the military order signed earlier this week by President George W. Bush on the detention, treatment and trial of certain non-citizens in the war against terrorism.

In his appeal, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern about a number of matters, including the setting up of military tribunals to try those subject to the order and the absence of a guarantee of the right to legal representation and advice for persons in detention. He also raised questions regarding the establishment of an executive review process to replace the right to appeal the conviction and sentence to a higher tribunal, as well as the exclusion of jurisdiction of any other courts and international tribunals.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur expressed deep concern about the implications of the order on the rule of law, and "the wrong signals it sent, not only in the United States, but around the world."

"The very fact that such powers are available to the executive strikes at the core of the principles of the rule of law, equality before the law and the principles of a fair trial," he wrote. While acknowledging the national emergency declared on 14 September, the Special Rapporteur said he was "not convinced that such repressive measures curtailing the core values of the rule of law and a fair trial are necessary."

 

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