Senator Dodd Introduces Military Commissions Act Fix Bill; ACLU Applauds Move, Urges Congress to Restore Due Process

February 13, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) for introducing legislation to restore the Constitution and the basic American value of due process to detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The "Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007" would also fix many of the problems contained in the Military Commissions Act passed by Congress last year.

"The bill introduced today would restore core American values gutted by the Military Commissions Act," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The only thing scarier than a government that would take away our basic freedoms is a Congress and a people that let it happen. We urge lawmakers to stand for the Constitution by restoring due process."

The Dodd bill restores habeas corpus and due process at Guantanamo Bay and to other detainees held indefinitely by the federal government. Specifically, the bill would stop any president from deciding who is an enemy combatant and limit that designation to people actually in armed conflict with our country. It also gives back to detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere the Constitution’s habeas corpus protection of having a court decide whether a person is being imprisoned unlawfully.

The bill would also block the federal government from making up its own rules on torture. The Geneva Conventions have been American law for decades on how we behave during war. The bill makes clear the federal government must comply with the Conventions, and no one in the federal government - not even the president -- can make up their own rules on the use of torture and abuse.

The Dodd bill will also end the two different standards -- one for privates and sergeants and another for top government officials. The Military Commissions Act left men and women in the military subject to comprehensive laws against torture and abuse, but gave top government officials a get-out-of-jail free card. The bill makes sure that all felony torture and abuse can be prosecuted, even if the perpetrator is sitting in an office in Washington instead of serving as a private in the field.

The ACLU noted that nearly 400 men continue to be held indefinitely and without charge at Guantanamo Bay Even the government has admitted that more than 100 of the men shouldn’t be there.

"It is time for Congress to restore due process, defend the Constitution and protect what makes us Americans," said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The Military Commissions Act gave any president vast powers that violate our commitment to fairness and freedom, but the Dodd bill corrects those mistakes."

The ACLU's letter on S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, is available at: www.aclu.org/natsec/gen/26861leg20060925.html

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