Lawyers Rip Detentions

The American Bar Association, a group with 400,000 lawyers, is having its annual meeting in Atlanta. A resolution was passed today condemning President Bush's detentions of foreign detainees:

Over the objections of the Bush administration, the nation's largest lawyers group is moving to condemn the government's handling of foreign detainees. A resolution debated Monday by the American Bar Association criticizes what it calls "a widespread pattern of abusive detention methods." Those abuses, it says, "feed terrorism by painting the United States as an arrogant nation above the law."

The ABA was responding to abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and concerns about the treatment of about 600 terrorism suspects being held in Cuba.

A member of the conservative Federalist Society argued against the measure. Thankfully, to no avail:

David Rivkin Jr., a Washington attorney, said the ABA is taking a cheap shot at the administration. "It doesn't take much civic courage to condemn torture," he said during a debate Sunday sponsored by the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers' group. But Chicago attorney William Hannay III, who helped draft the ABA proposal, called it "the very heart of what the ABA should be doing." Memos by Bush administration lawyers encouraged interrogation methods "not worthy of our country or us as lawyers," he said.

Among the recommendations:

The ABA proposal recommends strengthening the federal anti-torture law, making it easier to prove criminal charges against soldiers and others who engage in torture, and expanding the law to apply to acts committed in the United States, not just those overseas.

In other ABA news, the group voted "to lobby Congress and states to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences."

Having served on the ABA's Criminal Justice Section Council for the past four years, I can attest to the hard work that went into these proposals. They are all the more significant when you consider that the organization's members are comprised of prosecutors, judges and law school professors, as well as defense practitioners and civil attorneys.

[link via How Appealing.]

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