CCR to Senate Judiciary Committee: Restore Access of Detainees to Court in Military Commissions Bill
WASHINGTON - September 25 - Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement on the efforts of the Bush Administration to strip the right to challenge their detention from those held in U.S. custody outside of the U.S.:
Last week's compromise on The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is a complete capitulation by Senators McCain, Warner and Graham to political pressure from Karl Rove and the White House. Not only did the compromise allow President Bush to issue his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions by executive order, but it immunizes CIA and military personnel from prosecution for past violations of the Geneva Conventions. Further, and most important for the many men currently in U.S. custody, the compromise bill would eliminate the right of detainees to challenge the legality of their detention through habeas corpus - a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution.
If this bill passes, the President's mere labeling of someone as an "enemy combatant" would permit the President to lock him up indefinitely. His innocence would be irrelevant. We now know all too well the dangers of this kind of unchecked executive power. Last week, the Canadian government completely exonerated Maher Arar, a computer software engineer sent by the U.S. government to be tortured in Syria. He was detained there for a year based on a mere executive assertion. And we know that the overwhelming majority of men currently detained in Guantánamo are men who were guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The President called them the "worst of the worst" and wants this unchecked assertion to justify their detention. It must not.
This legislation would set a dangerous precedent. It would invite our enemies to treat our own troops the same way if they are captured. It would be contrary to our values and dangerous for foreign policy. As others - including Senator Graham - have said before, how we treat those we detain says more about us than it does about them. We must continue to be a nation that prizes the rule of law and allows those we detain an opportunity to prove their innocence. We urge the Senate Judiciary committee to remove the habeas-stripping provisions from the bill.