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Senate to vote on compromise allowing Gitmo detainees to challenge detentions

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] is set to vote Tuesday on a compromise offered by senators in response to last Thursday's 49-42 vote [JURIST report] to deny Guantanamo prisoners habeas corpus access to federal courts [JURIST report] in order to contest the legality of their detentions. The Graham amendment [JURIST document] to the 2006 Defense Appropriations Bill [bill summary], if signed into law, would effectively overturn the US Supreme Court's 2004 decision in Rasul v. Bush [text] which enabled Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] prisoners being held without charges the right to challenge detentions in federal court. Following the Court's decision, 300 detainees filed petitions in US district courts to request hearings. In a bipartisan compromise worked out by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official website], and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) [official website] Monday, federal court jurisdiction would be restored over pending cases and provide for court review of whether the standards and procedures of the tribunals are consistent with the US Constitution. Levin called the compromise a "significant improvement" on Graham's original amendment. If the compromise is passed, detainees facing the death sentence or at least 10 years imprisonment will obtain an automatic appeal. Further, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia would also determine if it would hear cases with less than 10-year sentences.

Senators could also vote Tuesday on an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) [official website] who has accused the Bush administration of leaving detainees in a "legal limbo" by holding them indefinitely without charges but at the same time depriving them of protections under the laws of war. Bingaman's amendment would permit inmates to use habeas corpus petitions to challenge the legality of their detention, though senators have said that some measures to prevent frivolous lawsuits being brought under Rasul should be included. The debate comes one week after the US Supreme Court agreed to decide [JURIST report] whether or not the President has the authority to create military tribunals [JURIST news archive] to put Guantanamo prisoners on trial for war crimes. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [PDF certiorari petition] comes on appeal from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which held [PDF opinion] in July that detainees may be tried by military commissions [JURIST report], overturning a lower court decision [JURIST report] that military commissions were not competent to determine whether the detainee was a prisoner of war.
Reuters has more.

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