Tuesday, September 22, 2009

News from Guantánamo, more on detention

This has been a busy period for news related to Guantánamo and other detention sites.
► Yesterday Army Col. Stephen Henley, a military judge, granted a delay of the trial by military commission of 5 detainees charged in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. His decision came after the passing on Thursday of the deadline of the second 120-day postponement of the military commissions, requested by the Obama administration in May of this year. The administration had made its first request for a 120-day delay in January (along with announcing the closure of Guantánamo, on which we posted here and here), when President Obama took office. Rather than resume operations in full, however, the administration announced this past Wednesday that it would request a third delay -- this time for 60 days -- in the 10 pending military commissions cases, which include the so-called "high-value" 9/11 detainees.
The administration continues to maintain the position that it will prosecute detainees for war crimes under the military commissions originally put in place by President George W. Bush and then passed by Congress in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The Obama administration says, however, that it intends to revamp the commissions, a task for which it plans to enlist the help of Congress.
► In one of dozens of habeas cases before the D.C. district courts, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (left) recently ordered the release of Fouad al-Rabiah. This brought the tally in the habeas cases to 30 habeas petitions granted versus 7 petitions denied. Though the full opinion is sealed (the unclassified version to be released soon), this IntLawGrrl learned from an inside source that the government's case relied almost entirely on coerced confessions of al-Rabiah, which apparently drew ire from the judge: She questioned why the new administration was relying on statements obtained through torture and abuse.
Good question.
► In the habeas case involving Bagram detainees, Maqaleh v. Obama, the government filed its brief with the D.C. Circuit Court. Recall that on April 2, 2009, D.C. District Court Judge John D. Bates (right, a Bush nominee) ruled that the three individuals who had been "captured" outside of Afghanistan and brought to the U.S. detention center at Bagram were entitled to file habeas petitions based on the Supreme Court's guidelines in Boumediene v. Bush (2008) (prior posts).
The government appealed that ruling, raising the spectre of Johnson v. Eisentrager (1950) for the hundredth time since 2002, and arguing that there was already a military administrative-type process in place to review whether an individual should be detained. (The Department of Defense review process is in the addendum at the end of the brief). These procedures look a lot like the Combat Status Review Tribunals and the Administrative Review Boards used at Guantánamo, which the Boumediene court concluded were not an adequate substitute for habeas.
► Last but not least in detention-related news, the United States closed Camp Bucca, the largest U.S.-run detention center in Iraq, moving the detainees to other camps and back to the custody of Iraq, all in anticipation of its plan under the new U.S.-Iraq Agreement (prior post) to withdraw from Iraq.

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