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Senate passes military commissions bill after rejecting habeas amendment

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] approved its version [S 3930] of the military commissions bill [JURIST news archive] in a 65-34 vote [roll call] late Thursday after narrowly rejecting several amendments, including one sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website; JURIST news archive] which would have eliminated a highly-controversial provision stripping detainees of the right to file habeas corpus petitions in federal court. The 48-51 [roll call] rejection of that amendment and the success of the bill as a whole represent major victories for the Bush Administration, which lobbied for and reached a deal [JURIST report] with Senate Republicans regarding provisions that would additionally make US interrogators subject to a limited range of "grave breaches" purporting to reflect the requirements of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Republicans contend that the establishment of military commissions and the suspension of habeas rights enable the CIA and military to effectively prevent terrorist attacks, but Specter and nine former federal judges [JURIST reports] publicly questioned the bill's constitutionality, which will almost inevitably be challenged in the courts.

The US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] similar military commissions legislation [HR 6166 text] on Wednesday and will vote on the Senate measure next.

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