The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA, ruled unanimously Sept. 9 that Jose Padilla, held for more than three years as an “enemy combatant,” can be detained indefinitely without trial. Judge Michael Luttig wrote the decision for a three-member appellate court panel. He is considered to be on President Bush’s short list of candidates for a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Padilla’s attorneys plan to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“The court’s ruling effectively declares the entire world, including the United States, to be a battlefield subject to military jurisdiction, where American citizens can be stripped of their constitutional rights,” said Deborah Pearlstein, director of the U.S. Law and Security Program at Human Rights First, a rights advocacy group in New York and Washington.
By invoking the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution, which Congress passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, the president can indefinitely detain suspected terrorists “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States,” the appeals court said.
Despite the government’s stated concern about keeping Padilla locked up, his chief attorney, Donna Newman of New York, said she never sought his automatic release from a Navy brig in Charleston, SC. Rather, she said, she wanted the government to try him.
“They’re not giving him a chance to fight this,” she said. “They’re telling him he’s going to be held forever, that he has no rights. What they’re saying is worse than a life sentence.” (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 10)