Congress should guide courts through detainee habeas petitions: Mukasey

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official website; JURIST news archive] said on Monday that Congress should pass legislation [C-SPAN video, Flash; transcript] guiding US civilian courts on how to conduct Guantanamo detainees' habeas corpus proceedings because the judiciary should not make such determinations. Mukasey reiterated the Bush administration's disappointment [JURIST report] with the Supreme Court's June decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees, but said that the government's job now is to form policy in line with the Court's decision that will guide how courts handle the cases:

Congress and the Executive Branch are affirmatively charged by our Constitution with protecting national security, are expert in such matters, and are in the best position to weigh the difficult policy choices that are posed by these issues. Judges play an important role in deciding whether a chosen policy is consistent with our laws and the Constitution, but it is our elected leaders who have the responsibility for making policy choices in the first instance. So today, I am urging Congress to act – to resolve the difficult questions left open by the Supreme Court. I am urging Congress to pass legislation to ensure that the proceedings mandated by the Supreme Court are conducted in a responsible and prompt way and, as the Court itself urged, in a practical way.
Mukasey said that Congress must pass legislation so that enemy combatants are not allowed into the US either for court proceedings or on release orders. He added that Congress must ensure that courts use processes protecting citizens and classified information while affording detainees their necessary rights. He emphasized his belief that it is necessary to encourage the continuation of military tribunals and eliminate inconsistent rulings and multiple trials for detainees. Rights groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [official website] have argued [press release] that Mukasey's plan will lead to unnecessary legal proceedings and delays, but Mukasey asserted that the legislation will only cover procedural matters rather than whether the courts may hear the cases. Reuters has more.

Federal judges are also concerned about habeas trial efficiency. The chief judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [court website] said in early July that the US government should make detention appeals by Guantanamo detainees a top priority [JURIST report], and devote all necessary resources to ensuring that the appeals reach trial in a timely manner. Judge Thomas F. Hogan [official profile] made the comments at the first hearing concerning coordination issues for the habeas [JURIST news archive] appeals of several terrorism detainees now being held at Guantanamo Bay. Hogan is tasked with establishing deadlines for the government to turn over evidence on the detainees to their lawyers, and he told the Department of Justice [official website] to put other cases on hold while complying with these requests.

 

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