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US senator proposes amendments to Military Commissions Act restoring habeas

[JURIST] US Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) [official website] introduced legislation [press release] Thursday that would restore habeas corpus rights to military detainees [JURIST news archive] and make other amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [JURIST news archive]. A key provision in the MCA, which President Bush signed into law [JURIST report] last month, strips US courts of jurisdiction to consider writs of habeas corpus filed by detainees classified as enemy combatants. Dodd's bill, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, would restore those protections. The amendments would also narrow the class of detainees identified as unlawful enemy combatants who are affected by the MCA's habeas restriction. Among other key provisions are the exclusion of evidence acquired by coercion and the exclusion of hearsay evidence that judges deem unreliable.

Since its passage, the MCA has come under fire not only from Democrats but also from the judiciary, human rights groups and foreign countries. Earlier this month, lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] petitioned [JURIST report] the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to declare the suspension of habeas rights unconstitutional. In an amicus brief [PDF text] in the case, seven retired federal judges urged the appeals court to rule that parts of the MCA violate the Constitution. Dodd's bill would also provide for expedited review of the MCA to ensure its constitutionality. The Hill has more.

6:00 PM ET - The National Security Advisors blog has posted a section-by-section comparison [blog post] of key provisions of Senator Dodd's bill and the Military Commissions Act.

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