Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Military Commissions, Civilian Courts, Law of War Detention, and Habeas Cases

On a transparency of the military commissions note (although not necessarily all the substance of the piece), we tip our hats to Lawfareblog's Ben Wittes, who advocates for greater public access to the military commissions, after outlining the significant hurdles the commissions present for those who want to attend these historic tribunals. Having traveled to the commissions twice myself, with the vast majority of both trips comprising "down time" outside the courtroom, I particularly like the idea of a remote feed of the court proceedings to locations within the US. In the mean time, you can read our NIMJ Reports from Guantanamo to get a feel for the commissions.
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No doubt most of you have seen the ongoing coverage of the news that the US held a Somali suspected terrorist, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, aboard a Navy vessel for several months before turning him over for civilian prosecution, which is igniting plenty of debate as to when and whether terrorism suspects should move from military to civilian detention and prosecution. 
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In response to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's recent calls for terrorism suspects arrested on US soil to be tried in military commissions, here is an excellent op-ed from NIMJ friend Mason Clutter of The Constitution Project.  In her piece, Clutter counters the notion that civilian courts aren't able to adequately prosecute terrorism cases, and she highlights the relatively light sentences handed down at the modern-day military commissions.
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In other detainee news, those who follow the habeas cases for the GTMO detainees know that many of the District Court rulings have been in the detainees' favor.  A front-page article in today's Washington Post proclaims that the DC Circuit has, thus far, reversed each of those decisions, holding the US may continue to hold the individuals.  In at least one case, it seems even DoJ attorneys were surprised at the court's ruling that there was sufficient evidence to continue Hussain  Salem Mohammad Almerfedi's detention.