Federal judge rules on meaning of 'enemy combatant'

[JURIST] Judge Richard Leon [official profile] of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday ruled [order, PDF] that in order to be validly held as an "enemy combatants," Guantanamo Bay detainees [JURIST news archive] must have directly supported hostilities against the US or its allies. Leon made the ruling as a preliminary step in considering habeas corpus petitions filed by several detainees challenging their detention at the base. In his order, Leon wrote that courts should generally defer to the political branches of government on such issues, and that the key question was whether or not they had provided a definition of "enemy combatant" that comported with the President's constitutional war powers [US Const. Art. II text] and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force [PDF text]. He said such a definition had been provided in a 2004 Order Establishing Combatant Status Review Tribunal [PDF text], and he adopted it for use in the cases:

the term "enemy combatant" shall mean an individual who was part of or supporting Taliban or al Qaeda forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces.
AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.

In September, DC District Court Chief Judge Thomas Hogan granted a government motion [order, PDF; JURIST report] to extend from August 30 to September 30 the court's filing deadline for the first fifty factual returns in the habeas appeals of the detainees. In July, Hogan had called on the government to make the Guantanamo detention appeals a top priority [JURIST report] and devote all necessary resources to ensure that they reached trial in a timely manner pursuant to the US Supreme Court's June ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], where the Court held that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees classified as "enemy combatants."

 

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