Senate Questions Indefinite Detention Without Charge

June 9, 2009 12:00 am

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Senator Feingold Holds Hearing To Discuss Legality And Morality Surrounding Detention FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECONTACT: (202) 675-2312; WASHINGTON – A hearing today held by a Senate subcommittee explored the legal and moral questions surrounding the continued use of indefinite detention for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. In a speech given two weeks ago, President Obama signaled new laws could be needed to indefinitely hold Guantanamo detainees without charge or trial. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution heard testimony on the topic today from legal scholars and human rights advocates. “The ability to challenge one’s imprisonment is so basic a human and democratic right that it is hard to believe that any American would be advocating for anything less,” said Christopher Anders, American Civil Liberties Union Senior Legislative Counsel. “President Obama’s commitment to closing Guantanamo is admirable but it cannot result in the creation of another indefinite detention system. Unlawful imprisonment was not tenable at Guantanamo and it is certainly not tenable on American soil.” With passage of the Military Commissions Act in 2006, which the Supreme Court found to be illegal, the right for detainees to challenge their detention was stripped away. The legislation also created a military commission system for prosecuting detainees outside the American criminal justice system which, tainted by political interference, has been marred by ethical and legal problems from day one. Among other things, the proceedings allow the admission of secret evidence, hearsay and evidence obtained through torture. While the Obama administration has proposed changes to the military commissions, civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, worry these modifications are largely cosmetic and do not change their fundamentally illegitimate and unjust nature. “We live in a country that is governed by the rule of law,” said Anders. “Detaining individuals without indefinitely without charge chips away at our most basic constitutional rights and values. Our criminal justice system has proven time and time again that it is more than capable of handling terrorism cases. Congress is right to be skeptical of President Obama’s proposal.”

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