8
Dez
2005

Reject Court Stripping Amendment

From: Ricardo Ocampo

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From: Jose Medhina Awad
Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 03:26:48 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Urgent Action Today: Reject Court Stripping Amendment!

Please write your representatives and the members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Judiciary Committees to tell them to strip the Graham-Levin Amendment from the Military Authorization Bill and preserve the right to habeas corpus and judicial oversight. They will be ironing out the differences in the Senate and House versions of the bill tomorrow, Wednesday, December 7, 2005. PLEASE WRITE NOW!

This will be the third action alert we’ve sent you about this disastrous Amendment that would strip the courts of the right to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees at Guantánamo. And we may send a fourth. It’s difficult to make habeas corpus sound sexy, but it is perhaps the most fundamental right we have and the basis for our entire system of justice, dating back 800 years. Simply put, it’s what keeps the government from being able to lock people up and throw away the key. It guarantees the right to know the charges against you and to challenge your detention in a court of law. It is the basis of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances enshrined in our Constitution.

If we do not stop the Graham Levin amendment now, what starts with foreign detainees at Guantánamo will carry over to the rest of us and our rights here at home. There is already additional legislation in committee that seeks to curtail habeas rights for domestic criminal prisoners. In addition, any ground gained by the McCain Amendment forbidding the use of torture becomes meaningless if the detainees have no access to an attorney and no way to protest their abuse in court.

Last year the Supreme Court rejected the government's position that it can maintain a law-free zone at the Guantánamo Naval Base. The habeas corpus petitions on behalf of the men imprisoned in Guantánamo seek the most basic relief: a fair hearing with due process in federal court to challenge the factual and legal basis of their detention. Our system of justice is founded upon the notion that the Executive may not detain any individual without these fundamental protections. We are asking you to write your representatives to demand that they not to undo the work of the Supreme Court and that they uphold the rule of law and reject the Graham-Levin Amendment to the Military Authorization Bill.

You can also call your representatives through the US Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Senator Graham offered his amendment in the Senate very late in this session, and a vote was held with no hearings and very little debate. After the vote, a firestorm of criticism forced Senator Graham to accept a compromise--negotiated with Democratic Senator Carl Levin--that allows captives very limited recourse to federal appeals courts. But Republican Senator Arlen Specter, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described the compromise as "a sophisticated, blatant attempt at court-stripping."

The Bush Administration is now negotiating with Graham and others to make the legislation even more restrictive. A Justice Department spokesperson says Attorney General Gonzales has stated that he is "particularly focused on thwarting some of the 160 habeas lawsuits filed by Guantánamo detainees." Graham and the Bush Administration oppose rights for the Guantanamo detainees in part because they refuse to face the fact that innocent people have been caught up in the system--a fact acknowledged by the military's own commanders at Guantánamo. According to the Wall Street Journal: "American commanders acknowledge that many prisoners shouldn't have been locked up here in the first place because they weren't dangerous and didn't know anything of value. 'Sometimes, we just didn't get the right folks,' says Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, Guantánamo’s current commander."

Your voice is urgently needed to preserve habeas corpus -- the most critical safeguard against torture and unchecked Executive power.


Sincerely,
Ron Daniels
Executive Director,
Center for Constitutional Rights


Informant: Martin Greenhut
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