Treatment of "Battlefield Detainees" in the War on Terrorism [Updated November 14, 2006]   [open pdf - 288KB]

"In June 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush that U.S. courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges on behalf of persons detained at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in connection with the war against terrorism. The Court overturned a ruling that no U.S. court has jurisdiction to hear petitions for habeas corpus on behalf of the detainees because they are aliens detained abroad, but left questions involving prisoners' rights and status unanswered. Congress enacted the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), P.L. 109-148, to establish standards for interrogation and to deny detainees access to federal courts to file habeas petitions but allow limited appeals of status determinations and final decisions of military commissions. Congress approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), P.L. 109-366, to authorize military commissions for the prosecution of detainees for war crimes. The Bush Administration earlier deemed all of the detainees to be 'unlawful combatants,' who may, according to Administration officials, be held indefinitely without trial or even if they are acquitted by a military tribunal. In answer to the Rasul decision, the Pentagon instituted Combatant Status Review Tribunals to provide a forum for detainees to challenge their status as 'enemy combatants.' The Pentagon had earlier announced a plan for annual reviews to determine whether detainees may be released without endangering national security. This report provides an overview of the law of war and the historical treatment of wartime detainees, in particular the U.S. practice; describes how the detainees' status might affect their rights and treatment; and summarizes activity of the 108th and 109th Congresses related to detention in connection with the war against terrorism."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31367
Public Domain
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