TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Although two presidential administrations and the Supreme Court have nowupheld the legality of detentions outside the criminal justice system in oneform or another, it is likely that this topic will remain enmeshed in controversyfor some time. As the conflict in Afghanistan shows little sign of ending, thereremains serious legal debate over how long detention may continue under theAUMF. This is especially true since the Obama Administration has announcedit could hold some of the Guantanamo detainees indefinitely—a proposal thathas been met with significant skepticism by the legal community. 330 In the future,the Obama Administration will likely need to clarify both the amount oftime it intends to hold detainees and under what conditions they may be held.SpotlightHamdi v. RumsfeldBackground: Yaser Hamdi, the child of twoSaudi immigrants, was born in Baton Rouge,Louisiana. He was captured in Afghanistanin 2001 and was accused of being a memberof the Taliban. After being transferred to theUS, he was confined in a Navy brig in Virginia and then in a military jail inCharleston. In 2002 he brought a habeas corpus suit challenging the legality ofhis detention without trial.Supreme Court Ruling: The Court held that Hamdi’s detention was lawful underthe AUMF, but that the detention could not be indefinite. It also held thatthe government must create some sort of tribunal to determine whether detaineesare “enemy combatants.”Follow-up: The Supreme Court’s ruling led to the establishment of CombatantStatus Review Tribunals (CSRTs) to determine whether detainees are indeed“enemy combatants.” Hamdi was released in 2004. He was deported to SaudiArabia and was required to permanently renounce his US citizenship.Image: The United States Navy Brig,Norfolk Virginia

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