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Cases Thrown Out, Congress Considers Tribunals

Congress is taking a second look at guidelines hastily enacted last year for trying detainees in places such as the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Just three of its nearly 400 detainees have been brought to trial under the so-called Military Commissions Act.

Earlier this week, military judges threw out two of those cases. And other provisions in the law are also raising red flags. The White House got the Military Commissions Act it wanted last year from a Republican-run Congress. Since then, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has been pushing to revise it.

Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee; he says the military judges who dismissed the two Guantanamo cases Monday did the right thing, because the defendants were not classified as "unlawful enemy combatants," as the law requires.


Legislation restoring the rights of those held to challenge their detention in civilian courts is set to be passed out of Leahy's committee Thursday.

At a recent hearing, ranking Judiciary Republican Arlen Specter called the absence of habeas corpus guarantees "atrocious," noting that his own push to restore them last year in the GOP-run Senate lost by only three votes.

But Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who helped write the detainee trial guidelines, urges caution.

"I think before we leap to any conclusions," Warner said, "we should wait until such time as the review tribunal, appellate review, takes place. It's as simple as that."

So far, just one detainee's case has been settled under the legislation: Australian David Hicks was sent home to serve a nine month sentence.


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