Obama: no rights for Afghan detainees

The Obama administration told a federal judge Feb. 20 that US military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing an argument of former President Bush’s legal team. In a two-sentence filing, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the US Air Force base at Bagram, just outside Kabul, and concluded that the Bush policy was correct. “Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position,” wrote Michael F. Hertz, acting assistant attorney general.

In a habeas corpus suit on behalf of some 600 detainees who have been held for years without trial, the plaintiffs argue that they are not enemy combatants. They want a judge to review the evidence against them and order the military to release them. The Bush administration argued that the US courts have no jurisdiction in the case because the detainees are non-citizens being held outside the United States. The Obama team was required to take a stand on those arguments after a Washington DC federal district judge, John D. Bates, asked the new government whether it wanted to alter that position. (NYT, Feb. 22; BBC News, Feb. 21)

See our last posts on the detainment scandal and Afghanistan.

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