NDExpert: Law School's O'Connell comments on al- Marri charges

by Michael O. Garvey

Mary Ellen O'Connor ND Expert

Mary Ellen O’Connell, Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law, applauded yesterday’s announcement that the Justice Department would move the case of the only enemy combatant to be held on American soil, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, into a civilian criminal court.

The Bush administration had argued that al-Marri, who was arrested in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001, was an agent of Al Quaeda and could be held indefinitely without being charged. Al-Marri is expected to be charged in Illinois today with supporting terrorist groups.

According to O’Connell, “Mr. al-Marri’s detention as an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ in solitary confinement for over five years without any trial has been as serious a violation of international law as the creation of the Guantanamo Bay prison, secret CIA ‘black sites’ and abusive interrogation tactics.

“It was essential that President Obama renounce the lawless policy of declaring people ‘combatants’ who had never participated in hostilities. The rights to detain without trial and kill without warning must be reserved for clear cases of persons involved in hostilities. To do otherwise is a gross violation of human rights.”

O’Connell, author of “The Power and Purpose of International Law,” has written and lectured on international legal regulation of the use of force and conflict and dispute resolution, especially peaceful resolution of disputes prior to an escalation to armed conflict. She also has been active in the American Society of International Law, the International Institute for Humanitarian Law, the International Law Association, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Contact: Professor O’Connell at 574-631-7953 or MaryEllenOConnell@nd.edu