New Detainee Treatment Law Target of Constitutional Court Challenge
Interview with Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, conducted by Scott Harris
In the final weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm congressional election, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed the Military Commissions Act, legislation that lays out how the U.S. can try terrorist suspects, and how detainees are treated under the Geneva Conventions. The GOP facing a very tough election year, hoped their "get tough on terrorism" rhetoric and passage of this bill would increase their chances to retain control of Congress. The bill, approved in the House by a 253 to 168 vote margin - and in the Senate by a 65 to 34 vote -- gives the president unilateral power to define the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions while prohibiting the judiciary branch from hearing challenges. The law also expands the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" to include those who directly or indirectly support hostilities against the United States. Under the measure, the president has the power to declare U.S. citizens enemy combatants, subject to indefinite detention.
Most alarming to civil liberties advocates is the provision of the law that eliminates the U.S. Constitution's habeas corpus protections for non-U.S. citizens, preventing them from challenging their detention in federal court. Shortly after the bill's passage, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the first challenge to key provisions of the Military Commissions Act. Many observers expect that this and other challenges will eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who explains why he and many other legal scholars believe the new law is unconstitutional.
Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, represents detainees held at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Contact the Center by calling (212) 614-6464; or visit their website at www.ccr-ny.org
National Lawyers Guild at www.nlg.org
Human Rights Watch at www.hrw.org
Amnesty International at www.amnesty.org
People for the American Way at www.pfaw.org at (202) 467-4999
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