House Committee Holds Hearing on Bill Ending Secret Evidence in American Courts
Washington, D.C., May 23 – – Members of Congress, victims of secret evidence and civil rights leaders today demanded an end to the use of secret evidence at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. Testimony centered on HR 2121, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, a bill which would end the use of secret evidence in all American court procedures. Since 1996, more than 25 individuals, almost all of them Arab and/or Muslim, have been arrested without charge and jailed on the basis of evidence withheld from them, their attorneys and the public.
The bill was introduced to the Committee by its original cosponsors, David Bonior (D-MI) and Tom Campbell (R-CA). Campbell told the Committee that “This law is clearly discriminatory and unconstitutional and we need to take a strong stand against it.” “The truth is that if we are willing to sacrifice our liberty to get security, we will deserve neither,” he said. Bonior told the Committee “Secret evidence is a national embarrassment, and we need to take action.” “Secret evidence violates the our deepest trust in the right to due process, and violates our democracy‘s most sacred document, the United States Constitution,” Bonior said.
Georgetown University law professor David Cole told the Committee that he had defended 13 secret evidence victims, all but one of whom is now living freely in the United States with no resulting harm to national security. He said “this is a record that clearly speaks for itself.”
Hany Kiareldeen, who was jailed for 19 months on the basis of secret evidence, and Nahla Al-Arian, sister of Mazen Al-Najjar who has just started his fourth year of secret evidence detention, also urged the Committee to support the bill.
A group of 49 civil rights, immigrants‘ rights and lawyers organizations also sent a letter urging all Members of Congress to support or cosponsor the bill. Signers included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the National Lawyers Guild, The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Council of La Raza, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Americans for Democratic Action and the United Methodist General Board.
ADC Chair Naila Asali said “ADC strongly supports the Secret Evidence Repeal Act. Congress must act immediately to end this outrageous violation of constitutional and human rights. We urge all Members of Congress to vote for HR 2121.” ADC‘s written testimony, submitted to the House Judiciary Committee, can be read on ADC‘s website, www.adc.org.