Senate committee defense budget includes military commission reforms

Senate committee defense budget includes military commission reforms

[JURIST] The US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] announced Friday the approval [press release] an appropriations bill that would alter the rules of evidence used in military commission trials. The version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 [S 1033 materials], which cleared the committee unanimously, would add language to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] reforming the use of classified, coerced, and hearsay evidence and allow defendants greater access to exculpatory evidence. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) [official website] said that the changes were necessary for the military commissions to be considered "regularly constituted courts" within the meaning of the 2006 Supreme Court [official website] decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The bill now moves to the full Senate for approval.

Last month, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced [JURIST report] that he would use the controversial military commissions system to try some Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. The move drew criticism [JURIST report] from human rights groups, which called the plan "fatally flawed," continuing a long line of criticism of the commissions [JURIST report] for admitting some evidence that is barred from federal court, including hearsay or coerced confessions. In January, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable and no later than one year from the date of this order."