Judge Upholds Detainee Rights Terror Law


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Judge Upholds Detainee Rights Terror Law

Dec 13, 8:17 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal judge upheld the Bush administration's new terrorism
law Wednesday, agreeing that Guantanamo Bay detainees do not have the right to 
challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robertson is the first to address the 
new Military Commissions Act and is a legal victory for the Bush administration 
at a time when it has been fending off criticism of the law from Democrats and 

Robertson rejected a legal challenge by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for 
Osama bin Laden whose case prompted the Supreme Court to strike down the Bush 
administration's policy on detainees last year.

Following Hamdan's victory, Bush asked for and got a new law that established 
military commissions to try enemy combatants and stripped them of the right to 
seek their freedom in U.S. courts.

Hamdan's case was sent back before Robertson, a nominee of President Clinton who
was a prominent civil rights advocate in private practice.

Though Robertson originally sided with Hamdan, he said that he no longer had 
jurisdiction to hear Hamdan's case because Congress clearly intended to keep 
such disputes out of federal courts. He said foreigners being held in overseas 
military prisons do not have the right to challenge their detention, a right 
people inside the country normally enjoy.

"This is the first time in the history of this country that a court has held 
that a man may be held by our government in a place where no law applies," said 
Barbara Olshansky, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which 
has handled many detainee cases.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kathleen Blomquist said the agency was pleased 
with the ruling. Government lawyers have repeatedly argued that Guantanamo Bay 
detainees have no right to use U.S. courts. Blomquist noted that the new law 
allows detainees to challenge their detention before military tribunals, then 
contest the tribunal's ruling before a Washington appeals court.

"That is more process than the United States has ever provided to enemy 
combatants in our past conflicts," Blomquist said.

The ruling does not affect the fate of hundred of detainees whose cases are 
awaiting a ruling by a Washington appeals court, which is reviewing two 
precedent-setting detainee cases challenging the new law.

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