Human Rights First & Amnesty International – 2006-09-27 23:06:26
ACTION ALERT: Stop the White House Attempt to Expand Executive Power
Jill Savitt / Human Rights First
(September 27, 2006) — This week Congress will vote on a bill that would expand executive power beyond anything we’ve seen over the past five years.
The Military Commissions Act now under consideration would let the President and the Secretary of Defense label anyone — even a US citizen inside the United States — an “unlawful enemy combatant” and detain them without charge or trial.
The courts have said no to this, but now Congress is poised to authorize it!
You have been instrumental in our uphill battle to end abusive detention policies, and we need your support once more.
Phone calls and letters to decision makers from supporters like you, along with opposition letters we coordinated from retired military leaders, forced the Administration to back away from its bid to redefine the Geneva Conventions.
But the bill contains severe flaws that violate basic human rights. For example, it bars courts from reviewing claims of unlawful detention, including from individuals who have no real connection to the battlefield or even to terrorism. This also means that there could be no recourse to stop abuses, nor expose them in court. Republican Senator Arlen Specter called this provision “inexplicable.” It is also unconstitutional and un-American.
Why should Congress reject the Military Commissions Act? Here are just a few reasons:
• It strips courts of jurisdiction to hear claims of unlawful detention and detainee abuses.
• It sets up an inferior system of justice that the world is likely to reject.
• It risks endangering Americans abroad who our enemies could now designate as “combatants.”
• It prevents courts from reviewing the government’s compliance with the Geneva Conventions and provides immunity to those who engaged in abuse in the past.
This bill goes against what America, as a democratic society, stands for. We must strongly urge Congress to vote according to principle.
Click here to ask your representatives in Congress to uphold the rule of law and vote “NO” on this bill!
We will certainly let you know how the situation unfolds this week. Thank you, again, for all your support.
Text of the Online Letter
This week you will be asked to vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. As a concerned constituent, I strongly urge you to vote NO.
Morally and legally, I expect my elected representative to oppose a bill that:
• Strips courts of jurisdiction to hear claims of unlawful detention and detainee abuses.
• Sets up an inferior system of justice that the world is likely to reject.
• Risks endangering Americans abroad who our enemies could now designate as “combatants.”
• Prevents courts from reviewing the government’s compliance with the Geneva Conventions and provides immunity to those who engaged in abuse in the past.
This bill goes against what America, as a democratic society, stands for. I ask you to please vote according to principle.
This bill betrays our values and compromises our safety. Please vote against it. Please clearly state to the world — and to our service members — that the US will abide by the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and our own Supreme Court.
Jill Savitt is the Director of Campaigns for Human Rights First (333 Seventh Avenue, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004. www.humanrightsfirst.org).
ACTION ALERT: Don’t Let Bush Legalize Torture
We’re mobilizing people of conscience across America to help change our country’s disastrous course on human rights.
Last Thursday, President Bush and several members of the Senate struck a deal on human rights. In the process, they dealt away America’s commitment to fundamental human rights principles.
Make no mistake about it, this deal is a betrayal of the America we believe in. No human rights activist can remain on the sidelines in the days ahead. Call on your Senator to oppose these dangerous provisions. We are literally days away from action in Congress on a proposal to:
* Abandon the rule of law and give the President the freedom to interpret the Geneva Conventions any way he sees fit.
* Provide immunity to those responsible for past human rights abuses.
* Exempt from prosecution those who authorize treatment traditionally considered torture.
* Strip detainees of access to US courts.
Background on President Bush’s New Detainee Policy
On November 13, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order allowing for trial of “enemy combatants” by military commission. The Commissions were not based on any established system of law – instead, the order stated quite clearly that anyone who was tried pursuant to the order would not have the ability to invoke rights under any other body of law, international or domestic.
Amnesty International has had a legal observer present at all but one of the proceedings before the commissions. Through analysis of the rules and first hand observations, Amnesty International has concluded that the alleged “war crimes” trials being held in Guantanamo did not meet international fair trial standards and were an affront to justice.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan was one of the first four detainees identified for trial by military commission.
His attorneys filed a habeas corpus case challenging his trial by military commission — both the fairness of the proceedings and the president’s power to convene them. The first pretrial proceedings in Hamdan’s case commenced in August of 2004.
In November of 2004, a federal district court ruled that the US could not try Hamdan by military commission, citing both rights under the Geneva Conventions and the fairness of the proceedings.
The military commission proceedings in all four initial cases were stayed pending appeal.
In July of 2005, a three judge panel on the federal appeals court, including now Chief Justice Roberts, ruled that the commission could go forward as currently constructed, and that Hamdan could not invoke rights under the Geneva Conventions. Since that time the government has charged an additional six men and held pre trial proceedings in some of those cases.
On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court issued a sweeping decision that found the commissions as currently constructed to be invalid.
The Court held that the President did not have the authority to convene military commissions that deviated so far from established procedures without specific Congressional authorization.
In addition, the Court ruled that the commissions must be in line with the due process protections found in the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits “the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
Recently, President Bush announced that 14 “high value detainees” who had been in secret CIA prisons, including the purported masterminds of the September 11 attacks, had been transferred to Guantanamo and were awaiting trial by military commission. President Bush has also sent Congress draft legislation to authorize military commissions very similar to those already struck down by the Supreme Court.
In addition, he is asking that Congress to retroactively strip habeas corpus and to provide immunity from prosecution for civilians, CIA agents and administration officials who may have violated the War Crimes Act. Amnesty International will continue to insist that any legislation meets the basic fair trials protections and standards for treatment required by the Supreme Court and US and International law.
We Implore You To Call Congress Immediately
The soul of our nation is in jeopardy. Everything we believe in is on the line. That’s why we’re mobilizing the entire Amnesty community. We’re going into action today and we won’t stop until every last Senator has made it clear whether he or she is willing to stand up for the America we believe in.
Please act today. Those behind this dangerous deal are doing everything they can to quickly build momentum. We have to break that momentum and we have to do it now.
If America renounces the Geneva Conventions like President Bush wants to do, nations all over the world will follow. American soldiers will be placed in greater threat of torture and cruel treatment when captured, not just by one or two rogue nations, but by many nations that follow America’s lead.
Call 1 800 AMNESTY and our operators will connect you to your official or call the Congressional switch board directly at (202) 224-3121. Let the person on the phone know that you are a constituent, and tell them that the deal President Bush has struck is a betrayal of the America you believe in. Ask your Senators and Representative to stand firm in defense of human rights.
After you’ve made your call, report back on how it went here.
Larry Cox is the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA