Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Military Commissions Act of 2006: Denial of Human Rights or Measure of Protection?

Last week, the Senate blocked the passage of a Detainees' Rights Bill meant to counter the Military Commissions Act of 2006. While the debate over the 2006 Act has not been quelled, the blockage of this new bill highlights a very important ongoing controversy. The 2006 Act essentially removes a terror suspect's right to Habeas Corpus, supplementing that right with the right to appear before an ambiguous "Combatant Status Review Tribunal" that decides the fate of a suspected terrorist or enemy of the US. Terror suspects and other criminals are not granted the right to sit before a jury upon detainment. These suspects are merely shipped to Guantanamo Bay and held until they are scheduled to appear in front of the "Tribunal". However, as stated in the attached article, one must question the "proper balance between national security and personal liberty".
During times of war, do foreign enemies deserve the right to a fair trial or is the US better off detaining all criminals in order to ensure the safety of the nation? Personally, I feel that the 2006 Act does violate the human rights of the suspected terror suspects jailed in Gitmo. However, the US does need an effective way to ensure the safety of its homeland and troops overseas. Regardless, habeas Corpus is a necessary means of serving justice worldwide. If the right to Habeas Corpus were granted and the US courts found every inmate at Gitmo guilty, at least it would be done constitutionally with human rights in mind. For this reason, one must look to the Supreme Court.
In April, the Supreme Court denied to hear two cases (Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S.) regarding the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act. However, this decision was reversed and the two cases will be heard as one in October. Time can only tell what the ruling will be on the constitutionality of the 2006 Act. However, the debate lingers - how can a nation balance national security with the need to protect individual liberties?


aditi said...

Personally I feel the right to deny anyone habeas corpus is wrong and the idea of putting someone in Guantanamo Bay without being certain of his guilt is preposterous. Imagine spending years in a facility like Guantanamo without ever having done anything to deserve it. To be innocent and still live like you're guilty. The conditions in some, if not most, of these facilities are barbaric, and the idea of innocent people having to live here just because they have not been proven innocent yet is just wrong. So before one argues that it is a time of war and America needs to be protected, one must think of how it would be if he/she was imprisoned for years in a place such as Guantanamo Bay, for a crime he/she did not commit.

yanks23 said...

Usually I would say, if the supposed "enemy," of the country was not a United States citizen, they should not be granted the same Constitutional rights as someone else, but in the case of Guantanamo Bay, I must take the other side. According to, "On November 13, 2001, Presidential Military Order gave the President of the United States the power to detain a non-citizen suspected of connection to terrorists or terrorism as an unlawful combatant. As such, it was asserted that a person could be held indefinitely without charges being filed against him or her, without a court hearing, and without entitlement to a legal consultant." Personally, as a citizen of humanity, no country has the power nor the right to detain people just because they think that person is an "enemy," or in this case a terrorist. Can you imagine, a person whose never done anything wrong or had any ties to any type of terrorist group being put in a detainment camp, without even appearing in front of a court; that just doesn't sit well with me.
The United States has some of the best resources and technolgy in the world, and if they find evidence that a person is planning an attack on our country, or if the person has ties to a terrorist organization, than I think they have the right to detain that person. Nevertheless, if they don't have solid information, but only a thought, than they have no right. America has an obligation to protect its citizens, but unless they have the proper information, the govenment should not go above the law of humanity and detain a certain person for an unknown period of time.

jurisprudence said...

"Usually I would say, if the supposed "enemy," of the country was not a United States citizen, they should not be granted the same Constitutional rights as someone else." Why Yanks would you usually say this? Why shouldn't all people be granted human rights ALWAYS? What makes you, or Americans so special that only they can have human rights? The Bill of Rights was created because the framers and the populace of the time thought of those rights as unalienable human rights (albeit they were a more homogenous group back then). But when is it ever ok to say “human rights for me but not for you”. If human rights is for the "in group" only, what will happen to us when we find ourselves in the "out group" one day?
Yanks, I respect your comment and your awareness that what is happening in Guantanomo Bay is wrong. But I worry about your usual tendency to believe that it is ever ok to deny any individual or group their human rights. Please don't use schematics and say that human rights are universal but constitutional rights are reserved only for Americans b/c the American constitution had a dual purpose. It was created to lay out the structure of the American government and also to protect human right, setting up safeguards to prevent government from infringing on them. Simply, I am saying that some provisions in the Constitution, such as the Bill of Rights are inherently human rights and thus ought to be universal. When denying anyone’s human rights your denying your own, because you are making human rights conditional, therefore when subjective conditions change you may find yourself vulnerable and denied relief.

Nyx said...

Great work.