Senate Republicans offer compromise military commissions bill

Senate Republicans offer compromise military commissions bill

[JURIST] US Senators John Warner (R-VA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Monday circulated a revised draft [PDF text] of a bill that would establish military commissions [JURIST news archive] for terror detainees. Although the draft is closer to the Bush administration's own proposed legislation [PDF text; White House fact sheet], the senators' revision retains several points at odds with the White House proposal. Concessions include a provision that would revise the War Crimes Act [text; JURIST report] to limit prosecution of detainee abuse to conduct that "shocks the conscience," as well as provisions that would prevent detainees from challenging their detention or treatment in US courts and from collecting damages for any violations of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials]. The draft nonethless diverges from the White House's proposal in requiring that any evidence used during a military commission be declassified or summarized for the defendant and allowing the presiding judge to dismiss a case if the government fails to turn such evidence over. Also contentious is the definition of who would be subject to military commissions – the revised Senate bill would limit defendants to "alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States," but the White House version has no such limitation, theoretically leaving open the possibility of military commissions trying US citizens for unspecified law of war violations.

Meanwhile, US Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has drafted a third proposed bill [AP report] to be considered by his committee on Wednesday. Hunter's draft takes a more hard-line approach than the senators' version and would allow classified evidence to be kept from defendants, but would instruct members of a military commission to weigh classified evidence in light of a defendant's lack of access to it. The Washington Post has more.