Army Lawyer, ABA Prez Back Habeas

An Army reserve lawyer told a House committee yesterday that Guantanamo review tribunals relied on “garbage” evidence and simply “rubber stamped detentions.”

Lt. Col. Stephen E. Abraham made the comments as he testified in favor of a bill to restore habeas corpus rights for prisoners who want to contest their detention in federal courts. ABA President Karen J. Mathis is also supporting the bill.

Abraham told the House Armed Services Committee that the tribunals are nothing more than an effort by the government “to detain anyone it pleases in the war against terror,” the Washington Post reports.

Abraham, who achieved notice for criticizing the tribunals in a court affidavit, expected to see a fair review process. But he said that wasn’t what he observed in the Pentagon unit overseeing the cases, according to the New York Times.

Mathis backed the bill in a letter to committee chair Ike Skelton. “The current system of detaining individuals at Guantanamo Bay without providing an adequate independent review process has created a political firestorm and has undermined the reputation of the United States as a guardian of the rule of law,” she said.

Mathis writes that 360 individuals are being held at Guantanamo, but only three have been charged under the process outlined in the Military Commissions Act. One case resulted in a plea bargain and two were dismissed.

“Under current law, the remaining prisoners could be held indefinitely as ‘enemy combatants’ without ever being charged and without access to meaningful federal judicial review of the legitimacy of their detention,” she wrote.

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