Senate OKs detainee provision

November 16, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday to place limits on the rights of terrorism suspects held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to appeal their detentions.

By doing so, it backed away from a more restrictive proposal passed last week that would have effectively overturned a 2004 Supreme Court decision giving prisoners the right to appeal to any federal court.

Yesterday's 84-14 vote was the first time that Congress has acknowledged the right of detainees at the island prison to challenge the rulings of military tribunals, established after the Sept. 11 attacks to try terrorism suspects.

Under the provision, detainees at Guantanamo Bay would be allowed a one-time appeal of their designation as "enemy combatants" only to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition, the provision grants an automatic appeal to the District of Columbia appellate court for any detainee sentenced by a military tribunal to at least 10 years in prison.

Senators who voted for the provision, an amendment to the annual defense budget bill, said it was necessary to reduce the burden on U.S. courts by limiting the number of appeals.

The detainee amendment is a bipartisan compromise that scaled back a measure, approved by the Senate last week, that stripped inmates at Guantanamo Bay of the right to file habeas corpus motions in U.S. courts.

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