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Professor Perspective: A Trial Date Set for September 11 Planners But No Justice in Sight

Eighteen years have passed since September 11, 2001. But even after all this time, the legal underpinnings of those tragic events are still unfolding, as a military tribunal date was only recently set for five suspects believed to have designed and organized the attacks.

In their most recent piece for the New England Law ReviewProfessors Victor Hansen and Lawrence Friedman discuss the complications surrounding the case and their predictions for the trial. Read an excerpt below.

As reported in The New York Times, the judge overseeing the military tribunal of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the four other suspects believed to have designed and organized the September 11 attacks has set a trial date of January 2021. Although there have been numerous court hearings for these five suspects since they arrived at Guantanamo, there have also been numerous delays, and this ruling marks the first time that an actual date has been set for the trial to begin.

Of course, whether this date actually holds will depend on many factors. The government has been operating military commissions in Guantanamo for nearly two decades and has poured millions of dollars into creating high-tech courtrooms in order to try individuals the administration of George W. Bush deemed “the worst of the worst.” Yet, at the same time, it seems that one of the biggest logistical obstacles to seeing justice served is that Guantanamo is not yet ready to host a trial that could last several months.

As surprising as that may be, the larger problem with these cases is the government’s continued effort to taint the trials with evidence obtained by torture – while at the same time obstructing both the court’s and defense attorneys access to this information.  Sadly, even the prospect of a date certain for trial is not likely to remove the deep stain of unfairness that will otherwise mark these cases should the government continue on its current course.  Equally sadly, the victims of the September 11 attacks will continue to be denied the justice that has eluded them for nearly twenty years...

Continue reading on the New England Law Review website.