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Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Lawsuits

We've written several times about the danger of the Carl Levin - Lindsay Graham Amendment to John McCain's anti-torture Amendment and how it would strip Guantanamo detainees of their right to bring habeas actions challenging the conditions of their confinement, including claims of torture and inhumane treatment in federal courts. (More here. Also see these Boston Globe , New Jersey Herald and San Francisco Chronicle editorials.)

Sure thing, Bush Administration prosecutors Wednesday argued to dismiss more than 200 of the lawsuits saying the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 retroactively stripped the court of jurisdiction.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will decide whether the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 retroactively stripped the court of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus cases challenging detentions at the military prison in Cuba. Lawyers representing the detainees argued that the new law does not apply to pending cases, while the government has maintained that all cases essentially should be wiped away.

Under the Detainee Act, there are only two types of challenges that can be made in a federal court. Both must be filed in a federal Court of Appeals and neither allows for challenges to conditions of confinement. They are:

  • a challenge to being designated by the military as an enemy combatant
  • Appealing a verdict in a future military tribunal

Besides being unable to file a claim alleging torture, the detainees are not allowed to seek their freedom, even when they have been found eligible for release by the military.

Currently, the military is holding 10 detainees at Guantanamo Bay who have been cleared for release, and federal courts have been powerless to order them freed.

Then there are the two Uyghurs -- Chinese Muslims-- who have been found not to have terrorist ties but are still being held because they can't go back to China where they would be tortured and the U.S. won't let them live here.

Attorneys for the Uighurs have taken the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to rule before the appellate court enters a judgment, arguing that their clients uniquely face indefinite detention even though they are innocent.

In a draft of the brief provided to The Washington Post, the UAA urges the court to allow the Uighur detainees to join the Uighur community in the Washington area, where they would live in a form of parole.

It's also too soon to get excited over the Pentagon's plan to issue a rule barring the use of evidence obtained by torture at military tribunal proceedings.

Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, who heads the office of military lawyers appointed to represent Guantanamo defendants, said ....Central to its effect...would be "who has the burden of proof" regarding allegations of torture -- the defense to prove it happened, or the prosecution to show it didn't. Commission rules still would permit hearsay statements, which, even with the change, could "be a mechanism to launder tortured evidence," Col. Sullivan said.

[Graphic created exclusively for TalkLeft by CL.]

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  • Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#1)
    by Punchy on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 06:35:11 AM EST
    So not only have we stopped allowing suspects to have their day in court, we've stopped allowing innocent people to even go free. That's hard to even fathom--the incarceration of knowingly innocent people...in America. I think the Soviets used to do that. How far we've come in 5 years...

    Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#2)
    by Wes on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 06:52:28 AM EST
    Levin said that "the Justice Department is in error. Far from deciding that the relevant statutory language applies to pending cases, Congress specifically considered and rejected language that would have stripped the courts of jurisdiction in cases that they had before them." No Habeas at Guantanamo? : US Executive Branch may have engaged in questionable acts and disseminated inaccurate information to encourage Senate passage of provisions in the Detainee Treatment Act preventing federal judges from seeing problematic evidence on why detainees are being held...

    Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#3)
    by Wes on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 07:59:08 AM EST
    From the WSJ article:
    The new rule, expected to be issued this week, comes before Supreme Court arguments next Tuesday over the legality of the special courts, known as military commissions, which President Bush authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to prosecute non-U.S. citizens for war crimes.
    The new rule is an effort to prevent the special military commissions from being struck down by the Supreme Court... We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men: George Orwell ;)

    Just remember, we're fighting for freedom and liberty! Just ask the guy in Afghanistan who's being prosecuted for being a Christian. Or the strip club owner in Vegas who's being prosecuted based on evidence gathered under the Patriot Act. (keeping our lap dances terrorism free) Or ask the Quaker peace groups who have been subjected to warrantless searches. The American Constitution, Void where prohibited by Bush.

    it would strip Guantanamo detainees of their right to bring habeas actions challenging the conditions of their confinement, including claims of torture and inhumane treatment in federal courts. Their right??? Is that kinda like the "Right" of an "illegal" alien to get a drivers license.... You all crack me up! Please tell when enemies of the US, captured on the field of battle, were ever allowed access to our courts (& greedy attention/money seeking lawyers)????

    Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#6)
    by Pete Guither on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 09:25:44 AM EST
    BB, Are you even vaguely aware of how small the percentage is of Guantanamo detainees who were actually captured on the field of battle?

    Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#7)
    by Pete Guither on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 09:30:46 AM EST
    8 percent of 517 Guantanamo detainees were considered al Qaeda fighters by the U.S. Government. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection to al Qaeda or Taliban.[18] 5 percent of the 517 detainees held at Guantanamo were captured by the United States and the majority of those currently in custody were turned over by other parties during a time when the United States was offering large sums for captured prisoners.[19]
    Link

    Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#8)
    by Lora on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 09:34:05 AM EST
    Different thread, same post applies, I think...although for some unfortunates, we seem to be applying the "guilty although proven innocent" principle. Go us. "Innocent until proven guilty" is at the very core of our judicial system, and a principle we should rigorously defend for all Americans, practice for anyone we detain anywhere, and promote worldwide. I am saddened to see how badly we as a country have fallen short of this basic ideal.

    When the left loses more power just look to the above comments for reasons why: Dick is upset because a Christian is being prosecuted in Afghanistan. So the left now thinks the taliban is better. At least you have the courage to admit it. All christians and women had it so much better under the taliban. What were we thinking. Not to mention the terror bases, etc... What a childish comment. And here's a good platform to run on: Every detainee shall not be taken into custody without a lawyer present. This will help win elections. Keep wondering why you lose more than you win...

    Bocafeff, Try reasoning a little bit beyond, "if A then B". The reason I mentioned a Christian being prosecuted in Afghanistan isn't because I think the Taliban is better, it's that our puppet government there isn't really any different than the taliban. Yet, Bush continues to say how great things are there because their constitution supposedly guarantees freedom of religion. Remember how Bush has been trying to tell us how we're spreading democratic ideals? Remember how Bush said he was going to get bin Laden dead or alive? Remember how invading Iraq wasn't going to be a problem because Afghanistan was all hunky dory? Look, if your idea of freedom, liberty, and justice is Guantanamo, fine. But I think the U.S. should stand for something other than gulags where people are held without charges, without notifying their governments or families, and without trials. Remember, the government refused to even term these prisoners as enemy combatants so they could violate the Geneva Conventions. I'm sure you consider yourself a patriot so it might be worth your while to read the Declaration of Independence to get an idea about what our founding fathers would've thought about this kind of sh*t.

    Re: Government Seeks Dismissal of 200 Detainee Law (none / 0) (#11)
    by rMatey on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 07:51:36 PM EST
    Nice answer, Dick (not that one).