US Senate suspends Habeas Corpus, Constitutional Guarantees and Bill of Rights.

Well, there you have it, the US Senate has officially suspended the American Constitution and Bill of Rights to make way for an Act called the Detainee Treatment Bill, which allows detention without trial, and prevents detainees from challenging their detention, one of the fundemental rights enshrined in the constitution. The Bill now an Act, (the USA is still a democracy) further erodes international law and the Geneva Convention by expanding the definition of “unlawful enemy combatent”. A rather ambiguous and neat turn-of-phrase used to redefine what is meant by a POW.

The IRAQ War according to the Senate, is therefore not a war but an insurgency carried out by “unlawful enemy combatents” who no longer enjoy any rights under the Geneva Convention. The USA forces may now detain anybody in the world suspected of giving “purposefully and materially support to hostilities” and the question one really needs to ask, is how far is this going to go and how is the definition going to be used to clampdown on dissent?

How does such a massive repeal of legislation affect our own democracy? Are we, as South African’s no longer allowed to question the Bush administration’s tactics or the Republican agenda and its insiduous use of torture? Are we not allowed to object to the policies of a Western democracy and government? Detention without trial smacks of the apartheid regime, and Guantanemo Bay is in danger of turning into Robben Island.

According to the 5th Amendement: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The phrase “except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger;” allows for such suspensions of civil liberty, so that the 6th Amendent also falls away:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

The question then, is when will we see a return to normality and how long can we except this “suspension” of the 5th and 6th amendment to last?

Here then, is how NPR treated the historical event, without so much as mentioning either Jefferson or Washington and the founding fathers, who gave the USA one of the worlds’ greatest constitutions. AMERICA RIP 1776-2006.

Senate Votes to Approve Detainee Treatment Bill
by David Welna

Charles Dharapak
President Bush, with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (left) and Vice President Dick Cheney, visited Capitol Hill Thursday. AP

All Things Considered, September 28, 2006 · The Senate passes a landmark bill for trying and questioning terrorism suspects, in a 65-34 vote that split along party lines.

Approval of the bill seemed assured earlier in the day Thursday, when an amendment aimed at preserving the right of all detainees to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts was narrowly defeated.

The debate came down to whether preserving longstanding civil liberties makes sense in an age of terrorist attacks.

A day after the House of Representatives passed a nearly identical version of the Republican-backed compromise, President Bush visited the Capitol on Thursday to rally his Senate allies.

“Our most important responsibility is to protect the American people from further attack,” the president said. “And we cannot be able to tell the American people we’re doing our full job unless we have the tools necessary to do so.”

The White House asked Congress to draw up detainee legislation because the Supreme Court threw out the Bush administration’s plan for detainee trials in June.

Inside the Detainee Bill
by Ari Shapiro

Brennan Linsley
A detainee walks around a fenced exercise area at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Sept. 19, 2006. AP

Read the Bill Online
Military Commissions Act of 2006

The Senate approved legislation Thursday that establishes military commissions to try terrorism suspects, and clarifies U.S. policy with regard to the Geneva Conventions — a treaty which defines international standards for the treatment of war prisoners.

The bill sets standards for CIA interrogators, but human-rights groups say the rules are complex and leave room for such harsh techniques as prolonged sleep deprivation. The legislation also denies detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in court.

A version of the bill won House approval Wednesday, on a 253-168 vote. The legislation has undergone several days of modifications and additions from members of Congress and the White House. Here’s the latest on what the bill says:


The Definition of ‘Unlawful Enemy Combatant’

The bill expands the definition of unlawful enemy combatants to include people who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities” and people who have been declared enemy combatants under Combat Status Review Tribunals, “or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.” Under this new language, people in the United States who are not American citizens could be declared unlawful enemy combatants and held indefinitely without trial.

Habeas Corpus

The bill prohibits detainees held by the United States from filing lawsuits challenging their detention, known as habeas corpus pleadings. This wipes out both pending and future lawsuits, and it would apply to people picked up anywhere in the world, including the United States.

The provision is significant. Habeas corpus is an ancient protection that stems from English common law, and its use dates back to as early as the 12th century. In 1969, the Supreme Court called it “the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced an amendment to remove this part of the legislation. He argued that the ability to challenge one’s detention is one of the most fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. The proposed amendment failed.


Coercive Interrogation Tactics

The bill prohibits “grave breaches” of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. That includes “cruel or inhuman treatment.” But many legal analysts and government officials believe the definition of cruel or inhuman treatment as written in the bill does not encompass some of the severe interrogation tactics that the CIA has reportedly used against terrorism suspects. The bill also prohibits enemy combatants from filing lawsuits claiming a violation of their rights under the Geneva Conventions. That could make it difficult to hold accountable those who do engage in torture.

Presidential Power

The bill gives the president the power to “interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.” Critics fear this means that the president can unilaterally authorize interrogation techniques that many people would consider torture.

War Crimes Act

The legislation would narrow the range of offenses prohibited under the War Crimes Act. This would protect civilians (such as CIA interrogators and White House officials) from being prosecuted for committing acts that would have been considered war crimes under the old definition. The change is retroactive to 1997, which means any crimes committed since 1997 would be prosecuted under the new standard, not the old one.


Evidence Obtained Through Coercion

If an enemy combatant made a statement under coercion before Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act in 2005, the evidence is admissible at a military tribunal in most cases

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