Wednesday, July 07, 2004

(Long Over-) Due Process 

The good news: thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision, all 595 detainees at Gitmo will receive individual hearings to ascertain whether they meet the definition of "enemy combatants":
The new hearings -- to be called Combatant Status Review Tribunals -- are separate from the hearings in federal court that the Supreme Court ruled the government must offer to all the inmates to contest their detentions. But administration officials and experts on military law said the new tribunals are designed to buttress the government's case -- that it has been deliberative in its detention decisions and afforded due process -- when it confronts defense attorneys in the federal court hearings.

"The administration is trying to make the best of a bad situation," said Eugene R. Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. "It's an effort to play catch-up ball, and to blunt the possible impact of the habeas corpus review."
The bad news: the concept of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal appears to have sprung full-grown from the fevered brow of Paul Wolfowitz:
Wendy Patten, a representative of Human Rights Watch, said the rules are biased against detainees. "While the Geneva Conventions start with the presumption of greatest protection for the combatant . . . here it is the reverse -- they presume a detainee is an enemy combatant and expect him to disprove it."

The essential function of the new hearings, officials said, is to help government lawyers argue their cases for continued detention in the habeas corpus hearings that eventually will be held for all detainees. U.S. lawyers would be able to argue that there is no reason for a judge to inquire too deeply into a detainee's case because the government has already deliberated on it, legal experts said.

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