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Enemy Combatant Detainees: "Habeas Corpus" Challenges in Federal Court

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Congressional rept.

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After the U.S. Supreme Court held that U.S. courts have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2241 to hear legal challenges on behalf of persons detained at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in connection with the war against terrorism Rasul v. Bush, the Pentagon established administrative hearings, called Combatant Status Review Tribunals CSRTs, to allow the detainees to contest their status as enemy combatants, and informed them of their right to pursue relief in federal court by seeking a writ of habeas corpus. In January 2006, Congress stepped into the fray, passing the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 DTA to require uniform standards for interrogation of persons in the custody of the Department of Defense, and expressly to ban cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in the custody of any U.S. agency anywhere overseas. The DTA also divested the courts of jurisdiction to hear some detainees challenges by eliminating the federal courts statutory jurisdiction over habeas claims by aliens detained at Guantanamo Bay as well as other causes of action based on their treatment or living conditions. The DTA provides instead for limited appeals of CSRT determinations or final decisions of military commissions. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the view that the DTA left it without jurisdiction to review a habeas challenge to the validity of military commissions established by President Bush to try suspected terrorists. In holding the military commissions invalid, the Court did not revisit its 2004 opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld upholding the Presidents authority to detain individuals in connection with antiterrorism operations, and did not resolve whether the petitioner could claim prisoner-of-war POW status, but held that in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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