Consistent and Transparent Policy Needed on Treatment of Detainees
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 12, 2005 — The president of the American Bar Association, Michael S. Greco, has called on Congress to help “restore our nation’s standing as a leader in promoting international human rights and the rule of law” by adopting language written by Sen. John McCain that “provides for a consistent and transparent policy on the treatment of detainees.”
In a letter to Senate conferees of the 2006 Defense Authorization Act, the ABA urged Congress to approve the McCain language in the bill that would prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of individuals in U.S. custody and establish uniform standards for interrogations. Greco stressed the importance of ensuring that the language was included in the final conference report.
The ABA further went on to call for a rejection of language in the bill known as the Graham-Levin amendment, which places new restrictions on the ability of detainees to challenge the legality of their detention in federal court. The Graham-Levin amendment effectively reverses the 2004 Supreme Court decision in Rasul v. Bush, in which the Court ruled that federal courts have jurisdiction to consider petitions by Guantanamo detainees for writs of habeas corpus.
The Graham-Levin amendment was introduced and agreed to in the Senate without committee hearings. The association is concerned that “removing federal court jurisdiction over habeas cases and creating a new, exclusive mechanism for judicial review are serious and complex matters which deserve thoughtful examination and consideration by Congress.”
Greco went on to say that, while the association is encouraged that Congress is beginning to address the issue related to individuals being detained as enemy combatants, it is opposed to any hasty action that will take away the basic tenets of justice upon which our nation is based.
The position of the American Bar Association on these amendments is based on policies adopted by the ABA’s 550-member House of Delegates.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.