US appeals court says judges must see all evidence when reviewing detainee status

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] unanimously ruled Friday that federal appeals courts reviewing "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] designations of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees must review all evidence regarding that detainee [opinion, PDF]. The Bush administration argued that the Pentagon should be able to select which evidence is presented to the court and may choose to leave out evidence that could prove a detainee's innocence. The circuit court, which gained jurisdiction to hear challenges of CSRT designations through the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) [text], held that

the court cannot, as the DTA charges us, consider whether a preponderance of the evidence supports the Tribunal's status determination without seeing all the evidence, any more than one can tell whether a fraction is more or less than one half by looking only at the numerator and not at the denominator.
The court also alluded to an expansion of the rights of defense lawyers representing detainees, when the court adopted a presumption that counsel for a detainee has a "need to know" classified evidence related to his client's case. The ruling added that the government can withhold from defense counsel "certain highly sensitive information," but such evidence cannot be kept from the court.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon denied [JURIST report] claims made by a US Army officer involved with the tribunals that the CSRTs are pressured to declare detainees "enemy combatants" [affidavit, PDF; JURIST report] based on vague or incomplete evidence. AP has more.


 

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