Saturday, February 10, 2007

Next Stop, The Supreme Court

Isn't habeas corpus supposed to be a thing of the past?

A federal appeals court in Washington ruled yesterday that a U.S. citizen in U.S. military custody in Iraq has the right to challenge his detention in a federal court.

The judges said all American citizens, regardless of where they are captured and imprisoned, are entitled to federal court review of their cases through habeas corpus petitions if they are in U.S. custody.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said a U.S. court should review the circumstances of Shawqi Ahmad Omar's more than two years of incarceration in Iraq. It rejected the Bush administration's claim that the executive branch has nearly unlimited authority during wartime and its assertion that the United States can hold citizens indefinitely if they are in custody overseas.

The court also found that the U.S. military cannot transfer Omar to the Iraqi government to avoid a habeas corpus hearing. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who dissented in part, agreed that the district court has jurisdiction over Omar's habeas case. ...

The ruling applies only to U.S. citizens. It does not delve into whether captured foreign nationals who the government considers enemy combatants -- such as the 393 detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- are entitled to the same protection. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 prevents enemy combatants who are foreign nationals from filing habeas corpus petitions. That law also has been challenged in the courts.

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