[JURIST] The US Department of Defense announced [press release] Saturday the release of one Egyptian detainee from the prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] after a military Combatant Status Review Tribunal [US DOD factsheet] determined he was no longer an enemy combatant. The unnamed detainee will be transferred back to Egypt. According to Saturday's statement, the military has thusfar transferred or released 246 detainees from Guantanamo Bay, and 505 are still held at the base. AFP has more.
[JURIST] The US military Saturday released a second group of 500 Iraqi detainees from Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] following an earlier release of more than 500 detainees Monday [JURIST archive], and a release of another 1.000 [JURIST report] at the end of August. The military has not said whether the releases are directly connected with the pending October 15 national referendum on the draft Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive]. The latest two rounds of releases fulfill a plan to free more than 1,000 detainees [US Central Command press release] before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Those chosen for release had admitted to their crimes, and had not engaged in serious, violent activity. AP has more.
[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] announced [official text] Friday that she intends to send an official observer to the Uzbekistan trial of protestors accused of plotting a rebellion during the spring Andijan uprising [HRW backgrounder] in the east of the country. Arbour had already written to the Uzbek government requesting information on the accused detainees and access to the places they are being held until their trial. The Uzbek government has already put 15 people on trial [JURIST report] for their involvement in the May 13 uprising, which led to government troops killing as many as 500 protesters [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] The White House Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion defense spending bill if the Senate amended it to establish a national commission on detainee operations or include provisions regulating the detention, treatment, or trial of terrorists. In an official policy statement [text; PDF], the administration insisted that such changes
would interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war to answer unnecessary or duplicative inquiries or by restricting the President's ability to conduct the war effectively under existing law.
[JURIST] The General Counsel of the US Government Accountability Office [official website] issued a scathing opinion letter [PDF text] Friday criticizing the Bush administration's use of news media and commentators to promote education policies like the No Child Left Behind initiative [official website] as "covert propaganda" prohibited by law. GAO auditors also said that hiring public relations firm Ketchum Inc. [corporate website] to analyze news favorable to the Republican party and paying conservative commentator Armstrong Williams [Wikipedia profile; JURIST report] for favorable newspaper columns and television appearances was wrong. Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official profile] and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) [official profile] requested the GAO investigation. Federal law requires that the GAO report the administration's violations to the White House and Congress, though no penalty accompanies the actual report. Then-incoming US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings took senior departmental administrators to task for the initiatives [JURIST report] this spring. The New York Times has more.
[JURIST] The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled [PDF text] Friday that members of the Nebraska Legislature [official website] overstepped their authority when they changed the minimum sentence for first-degree murder from life in prison to life in prison without parole in 2002. The legislature made the change during a 2002 special session called for by then-Governor Mike Johanns in response to the US Supreme Court ruling in Ring v. Arizona [text], which ended the practice of having a judge, rather than a jury, decide the critical sentencing issues in a death penalty case. The legislature changed state law during the special session to say that it is up to a jury, not a judge, to decide whether a defendant convicted of first-degree murder should get death. Judge Kenneth C. Stephan [official profile] wrote the court's opinion, arguing that the legislature overstepped its mandate at the special session because it was technically outside the scope of what the session convened to consider. The Lincoln Journal Star has more.
[JURIST] US Army General George Casey [official profile], the senior US commander in Iraq, expressed concern over the Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] at a news conference [official transcript] Friday, saying the draft [PDF text] had created divisiveness among the country's ethnic groups, as many Iraqi Sunnis are opposed to it and intend to vote against it. Casey cited this divisiveness as one reason he is uncertain when American and coalition troops can begin to withdraw from Iraq. In the past week, Casey has revised his predictions for the start of a troop withdrawal from early 2006 to later next year. Iraqis will vote on the draft charter in an October 15 referendum. VOA has more.
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