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DOJ urges court not to define 'enemy combatant'

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] Monday to refrain from addressing the definition of an enemy combatant [response, PDF], an exercise which the DOJ argues could force the Court to unnecessarily decide the scope of the President's military detention authority over prisoners at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Responding to last month's order [text] in which the Court invited the government "to submit any refinement of their position on the appropriate definition of 'enemy combatant,'" the DOJ said President Barack Obama had ordered [executive order, text] a comprehensive, inter-agency review of the disposition of all detainees being held at Guantanamo and recommended that the Court deal with future detainee matters on a case-by-case basis, explaining:

This...approach is consistent with longstanding practice of courts to decide only the narrow issues before them. It avoids holdings that are potentially unnecessary or unnecessarily broad concerning difficult and important questions. Particular cases may be subject to resolution without reaching broad questions about the scope of detention authority.
Last month on rehearing, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that it had no jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees' petitions [JURIST report] for subject-matter review of "enemy combatant" status decisions. The current definition of "enemy combatant" was set out last June by the Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which provided a broad basis for holding a prisoner without charges. The Court held that a suspect could be detained if it were shown that he or she had provided support to Taliban or al Qaeda forces, even absent direct involvement in hostilities with US forces abroad.

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