Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More on the Faisal Shahzad Plea Hearing and the War on Terrorism

The New York Times has an interesting article discussing the Faisal Shahzad plea hearing and his statements to the court about his conduct and his decision to plead guilty. According to the New York Times, Shahzad stated that he was "a Muslim soldier" and he was "avenging" the war in Afghanistan and American interventions in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. The article asks two important questions based on Shahzad's behavior: (1) Has the war on terrorism become the fuel for terrorist recruitment, and (2) where does the was in Afghanistan fit into the overall campaign against terror.

It's an interesting read. Click here to read the entire story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Times Square Bomber Pleads Guilty

The New York Times is reporting that the failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, has pleaded guilty to ten criminal charges related to his attempted terrorist attack earlier this year. During the hearing, Shahzad admitted to receiving terrorist training from the Taliban. In making his admission of guilt, he stated that he was "part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people." "I want to plead guilty," he continued, "and I'm going to plead guilty 100 time over because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that."

Shahzad faces up to life in prison for his acts. Sentencing is scheduled for October 5, 2010.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Plea Bargaining at the ICTY and ICC

I recently returned from a trip to The Hague, where I met with officials from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). As you might expect, plea bargaining was one of the significant topics of my discussions. In fact, I even had the opportunity to present some of my research research regarding plea bargaining to members of the ICTY.

Based on my discussions, it appears that the ICTY has fully embraced the concept of plea bargaining, even though the concept is prohibited by many of the jurisdictions from which its judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel originate. Why is this the case? For much the same reason it has dominated the American criminal justice system for decades - it saves resources and allows prosecutors the flexibility to reward those who would cooperate against higher level defendants.

In comparison, those at the ICC seemed less convinced that plea bargaining would be an often utilized tool in their arsenal. The reason for this reluctance, however, had less to do with an objection to the system itself and more to do with the unique mission of the Court. While the ICTY has indicted over 160 defendants during its existence, the ICC is still in its infancy. Further, the ICC seeks only to indict a handful of defendants in each case it investigates. According to those at the Court, because so few defendants are indicted with regard to each case, it seems unlikely any would be offered leniency in return for a plea of guilty. Should the ICC begin to indict more defendants in each case, however, the pressure to maximize resources and use lower level defendants to testify against higher level defendants might lead it down the same path as the ICTY.

It is interesting to see that despite a general discomfort with plea bargaining in many countries around the world, the international criminal law community has embraced the advantages of the system and has begun to make it a standard tool for utilization in international criminal tribunals.