Detainees’ rights debated as Guantanamo trial begins
After issuing landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has yet to clarify the appeals process for more than 275 Guantanamo detainees.
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On the same day that the Hamdan trial began, US Attorney General Michael Mukasey urged Congress to act quickly to clarify this appeals process in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, reports the Associated Press.Skip to next paragraph
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A Supreme Court ruling last month "stopped well short" of detailing how foreign suspects will be allowed to challenge their detention, Mukasey said in draft excerpts of a speech he was to deliver Monday morning.
"In other words, the Supreme Court left many significant questions open," Mukasey said in the excerpts that were obtained by The Associated Press.
He called it "well within the historic role and competence of Congress and the executive branch to attempt to resolve them." Mukasey was speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think-tank.
The New York Times reports that, under the Mukasey plan, Congress would draft strict rules for the handling of Guantánamo appeals, which would all be funneled through the US district court in Washington, D.C.
He said all the appeals should be consolidated in a single court, probably the district court in Washington. Prisoners should not be allowed to physically attend the appeal hearings in the United States, he said, but they could view the proceedings from a secure video link from Guantánamo — a comment that appeared to signal that the administration plans to keep the base open for the time being.
The courts should also not be allowed to release a prisoner into the United States if he is cleared, he said. And the proceedings should not be allowed to delay the military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay, with some 20 prisoners now awaiting trial for war crimes and others expected to be tried later. Only after those trials are completed should prisoners be able to appeal their detentions to the civilian courts, the attorney general said.
But The Washington Post points out that Congress has only five weeks left to draft and pass legislation before going on a long summer break.
Speaking to The New York Times, several democratic leaders said they were in no rush to pass laws clarifying the appeals process for the more than 275 Guantánamo detainees covered by the Supreme Court decision.
Democratic leaders made clear Monday that they would not let the administration set a timetable for rushing through legislation that Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the judiciary committee, called "ill-concieved."
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, in response to Mr. Mukasey's speech, said that "the courts are well equipped to handle this situation, and there is no danger that any detainee will be released in the meantime."