Legal Fate of Gitmo Detainees Debated

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Senators yesterday debated the legal fate of about 380 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay, but no action was taken.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said detainees can be held for years with no legal recourse, the Associated Press reports. Indefinite detention is “unconstitutional. It’s un-American,” he said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said Congress should wait for a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. ‘What is the hurry?” he asked.

A federal law denies habeas jurisdiction in detainee cases. On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a ruling upholding that law. The law gives the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit jurisdiction only to review the procedures used to classify detainees as enemy combatants.

After the cert denial, the U.S. Justice Department sought dismissal of the habeas cases pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Yesterday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. denied an emergency request to prevent the dismissal, the Associated Press reports.

Yesterday’s debate came after the U.S. Justice Department sought greater restrictions on lawyers representing detainees, saying they are causing “threats to security.”

Neal R. Sonnett, who chairs the ABA’s Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants, told AP the effort to restrict lawyers is a “pretty outrageous move on the part of the government and is just indicative of the way they have tried at every step to frustrate the ability of lawyers to represent their clients.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has transferred two Guantanamo detainees to their native countries of Afghanistan and Morocco, the Associated Press reports.

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