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US court examines 'enemy combatant' procedures

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2007/05/16 15:01

A US appeals court examined Tuesday the procedures of a military panel that determines whether a Guantanamo prison camp detainee should be branded an "enemy combatant." The three federal court judges in Washington, reviewing the matter for the first time, sought to determine how they should proceed in examining the Combatant Status Review Tribunal. The same court ruled in February that, as foreigners held outside US territory, the detainees could not challenge their indefinite detention without charge at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The US Supreme Court refused to review the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

A 2005 law, however, allows the detainees to ask the appeals court to check whether the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, created by the Defense Department in 2004, had followed procedures.

During the review tribunals, handcuffed detainees appear without an attorney before three military judges.

Only one person, called a recorder, has access to all elements of a case and presents the documents and witnesses that he or she deems pertinent for the review.

The detainee, meanwhile, can request under certain conditions documents and witnesses, but under such limitations most requests have been rejected.

The government argues that the appeals court can only have access to minutes of the review board hearings and documents presented to the panel.

But detainee attorneys want the court to be able to determine whether the recorder indeed presented all relevant documents for a case and if the military judges were right to reject certain witnesses or documents requested by the detainee.

President George W. Bush's administration has argued that unlawful enemy combatants captured in the "war on terror" do not have the same rights as US criminals or prisoners of war, arguing the detainees are not associated with conventional armies.


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