Therefore, military commissions, like international war crimes tribunals, have adopted more flexible evidentiary rules to permit the consideration of otherwise reliable evidence that may not be used under the rules of criminal procedure for ordinary criminal cases. The touchstone of those rules is the apparent reliability of evidence, not the degree to which the collection of that evidence may conform to the usual rules.
For those reasons, in order to have a full accounting for al Qaeda's war crimes, the United States has turned to a system of military trials, much as the Allies did following World War II. Let me make clear, however, that although military commissions accommodate military necessity and security concerns; they do not compromise fundamental principles of justice.
The military commissions established by our Congress are closely modeled on tribunals that the United States uses in courts-martial to try U.S. citizens in uniform. They include all the protections that we regard as fundamental, they exceed those used at Nuremberg, and they compare favorably with international war crimes tribunals.
Under the Military Commissions Act, for example, the accused enjoys the right to counsel; the presumption of innocence unless guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt; and the right to a trial before impartial military judges -- the same military judges who preside at courts-martial -- and an impartial jury. The accused enjoys the right to see all of the evidence presented against him--including any classified evidence presented to the members of the military commission. And the act ensures that the military judge deems statements admitted to be reliable and in the interest of justice.
Moreover, there will be no secret trials -- rather, all trials will be open and public, with only a narrow exception to protect national security. Finally, for those convicted, the Military Commissions Act provides several levels of appeal, including to our civilian courts, and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court. Like many of the rights provided in the act, this access to our domestic courts for direct appellate review is an unprecedented protection for convicted war criminals.
We recognize that the use of military commissions has been regarded as controversial by some of our allies. But we hope that as the trials go forward--and the first of them, of a man named Hamdan, who served among other things as Osama bin Laden's driver, is scheduled to begin this Spring -- some of the misimpressions about the system will laid be to rest, and the world will see not only the crimes of al Qaeda put upon display, but also a justice system fully consistent with our shared Anglo-American legal tradition as well as the standards of international law. That's why international conversations like this one are important, because they provide the opportunity for a discussion grounded in fact.
Cliche-ridded as it may seem, I think what unites us is far more substantial than what divides us. The common origins of our legal systems, and our long history of cooperation, suggest that we will be able to work together toward common solutions, and I'm glad that I've had this chance to continue our dialogue.
The law enforcement relationship between the U.S. and U.K. is built on trust, respect, and the common goals of protecting our nations and eliminating safe havens for criminals. The United States could ask for no better partner than the United Kingdom in this important endeavor.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice