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US Senator introduces Guantanamo habeas corpus bill

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official website] has introduced a bill to create rules and guidelines for legal challenges brought by future Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees and enemy combatants captured by US forces. Graham introduced the Terrorist Detention Review Reform Act [text, PDF] earlier this month without the support of the Obama administration, reflecting the parties' inability to reach a consensus on habeas corpus legislation. The landmark legislation would have Congress provide a definition of an enemy combatant subject to detention, create guidelines for the amount of evidence needed to keep a detainee incarcerated and authorize competent courts to take into consideration involuntary statements made by prisoners in the battlefield. Neither Graham nor the Obama administration has made an official statement regarding the bill, but political analysts have noted that Graham's actions were most likely intended to force the administration to reach a compromise [Politico report] on the currently contentious issue.

Habeas corpus relief for enemy combatants has been a prominent issue in US federal courts. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] released a redacted opinion [JURIST report] holding that evidence against Algerian Guantanamo Bay detainee Belkacem Bensaya must be reviewed to determine if he was "part of" al Qaeda [JURIST archive]. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg, writing the opinion for the panel, held that there appeared to be no direct evidence linking Bensaya to al Qaeda, and that the government's authority under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text, PDF] only extends to the detention of individuals who are "functionally part of" a terrorist organization. Bensayah was the only one of the six petitioners from the 2008 Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] decision who was not granted habeas relief after the Supreme Court remanded the case for further review of evidence. In Ma,y the DC Circuit ruled in Al Maqaleh v. Gates that Boumediene was narrowly tailored to detainees being held at Guantanamo [JURIST report] and that detainees held at Bagram Air Force Base [official website; JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan cannot bring habeas corpus challenges in US courts.

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