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January 29, 2002

Philadelphia Bar Association: Give Detainees Rights Under International Covenant

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Board of Governors has approved a resolution endorsed by the American Bar Association that anyone charged in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America should be afforded a "full and fair" trial before military commissions.

According to Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the accused are entitled to an independent and impartial tribunal, with proceedings open to the press and public, except for specific and compelling reasons. The accused should also be afforded the following rights: the presumption of innocence; prompt notice of charges and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; trial without undue delay; to be present and to be represented by counsel of choice; to examine or to have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance of witnesses in his behalf under the same conditions as the witnesses against him; to the free assistance of an interpreter; not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess to guilt; and to review of any conviction and sentence by a higher tribunal.

The Board also approved a resolution opposing a Justice Department initiative that would permit government eavesdropping between lawyers and clients who are in federal custody.

The Board took both actions at its regular meeting on January 24.

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