Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court [Updated January 28, 2008]   [open pdf - 271KB]

"After the U.S. Supreme Court held that U.S. courts have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to hear legal challenges on behalf of persons detained at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in connection with the war against terrorism (Rasul v. Bush), the Pentagon established administrative hearings, called 'Combatant Status Review Tribunals' (CSRTs), to allow the detainees to contest their status as enemy combatants, and informed them of their right to pursue relief in federal court by seeking a writ of habeas corpus. Lawyers subsequently filed dozens of petitions on behalf of the detainees in the District Court for the District of Columbia, where district court judges reached inconsistent conclusions as to whether the detainees have any enforceable rights to challenge their treatment and detention. In December 2005, Congress stepped into the fray, passing the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA) to require uniform standards for interrogation of persons in the custody of the Department of Defense, and expressly to ban cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in the custody of any U.S. agency anywhere overseas. The DTA also divested the courts of jurisdiction to hear some detainees' challenges by eliminating the federal courts' statutory jurisdiction over habeas claims by aliens detained at Guantanamo Bay (as well as other causes of action based on their treatment or living conditions). The DTA provides instead for limited appeals of CSRT determinations or final decisions of military commissions."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33180
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