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Policy Recommendations : Guantanamo Detention and the 9/11 Military Commission


September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Guantanamo Detention and the 9/11 Military Commission

“Highlighting the Absence of Justice”

(Updated December 2021)

We are an organization of 9/11 family members deeply concerned about the continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp and the failure of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo to deliver justice and accountability for the crimes of 9/11.

When we organized as September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, in 2002, central to our goals was “to bring those responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks to justice in

accordance with the principles of international law.” We believed in a principled, legal response that did not escalate the conflict nor produce even more deaths of innocent civilians. We remain committed to the Rule of Law as the bedrock of any legitimate U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks and support closing the Guantanamo Detention Camp with all deliberate speed.

Today, nearly 20 years after Peaceful Tomorrows organized and more that 20 years after our family members’ murders, there has been no justice for their deaths. In May of 2012, five men accused of planning the 9/11 attacks were arraigned in the Military Commissions at Guantanamo, but after nine years and seven months a trial has not yet begun. Failure to hear the case against the accused and to reach a verdict in a court of law is a profound affront to our families, but more consequentially it is an abdication of what the U.S. owes all of its citizens, indeed all the people of the world.

We believe that even at this late date there is a path forward that offers some resolution to the case against the 9/11 accused and also brings an end to the fundamentally flawed Military Commissions system at Guantanamo. This path would also pave the way for the closure of the Guantanamo Detention Camp that has been a stain on our nation’s honor since it opened. We are, of course, most concerned with the proceedings in the 9/11 case.

While years of argument and testimony in pre-trial hearings have produced no legal justice for 9/11, they have revealed the shocking role of torture in undermining the 9/11 case. Instead of learning how and why the attacks were carried out, and who was responsible for doing what, family members have followed seemingly endless

litigation largely concerned with obtaining classified information about the defendants’ torture by the CIA.

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows supports a profound change of course. We believe pre-trial agreements are a means to resolving the 9/11 case and the other extant Guantanamo Military Commissions cases and provide a path to achieving the Biden Administration’s goal of closing Guantanamo.

To further these goals, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows makes the following recommendations:

• President Biden and the Secretary of Defense should commit to appointing a Convening Authority for the

Military Commissions who will advocate for pre-trial agreements.

• The Attorney General should support and facilitate pre-trial agreements, either within the Military

Commissions or an Article III federal court framework.

Specifically, in the 9/11 case:

• In exchange for guilty pleas from 9/11 defendants, the government should no longer seek the death

penalty; this would be in part in recognition of the torture each of the defendants experienced.

• There should be a stipulation of facts.

• A mechanism should be created by which 9/11 family members and the injured could address questions

to the 9/11 defendants and learn their answers.

• The 9/11 defendants should be permitted to make a statement during their sentencing hearing.

• The 9/11 defendants should be required to testify during any future litigation that allegedly involves them,

or about which they may have information.

At the same time:

• The Periodic Review Board should redouble its efforts to clear for transfer all detainees who will never be


• President Biden should appoint a special envoy in the Department of State with responsibility for safely

and speedily relocating cleared detainees.

Many may not see this as justice. It is NOT the legal outcome that September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows advocated for at our founding - but it is a way forward to achieve the justice and accountability too long denied.

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