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Friday, November 11, 2005

Update: Senate Votes to Deny Terror Suspects Rights to Sue

On November 10, 2005, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported, "The Senate voted Thursday to bar suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from challenging their captivity in federal courts, a move that seeks to reverse a landmark Supreme Court decision and heightens the debate about what to do with prisoners captured in the war on terror.

By a 49-42 vote that broke largely along party lines, the Senate adopted an amendment proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the defense authorization bill that would strip prisoners at Guantanamo of their right to file habeas corpus petitions in federal courts. Five Democrats voted with the majority, while four Republicans opposed the amendment. Seven Republicans and two Democrats didn't vote.

'We're going back to a model that's worked for over 200 years - that prisoners in a war should not be able to go into court and sue the people that are fighting the war,' said Graham, a former military judge.

But the amendment might still draw opposition from the Bush administration because it would require Senate confirmation of the top civilian who's charged with reviewing the Guantanamo detainees' cases and would bar the use of any detainee statement obtained by torture...

Civil rights groups and others denounced the vote.

'For the Senate to make a big change like this, so hastily without a hearing, is just appalling,' said Rear Adm. John Hutson, a retired Navy judge advocate general.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the vote 'disgraceful.'

'The American military indefinitely detains individuals - and tortures some of them - and the Senate votes to strip them of their rights,' Romero said. 'It's unbelievable.'

Almost 300 of the 500-plus prisoners held in Guantanamo have filed habeas corpus petitions, arguing that they're being held improperly as enemy combatants. Most have been held without charges for more than three years. The Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that detainees were entitled to file such claims.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., called the amendment 'a very major mistake' and suggested that he'll try to change it when the Senate returns on Monday."

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