Friday, May 15, 2009

Military Tribunals continues under Obama Administration

Oh, brother....OK, I will step back and take a "wait and see" seat....

President Barack Obama is planning to unveil a new proposal today to try some war-on-terror detainees before military commissions — but under different rules from previous commissions instituted under President George W. Bush.

Under the new rules, statements obtained through “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment will not be admissible, according to an administration official who asked not to be named in advance of the formal announcement.

The Bush commissions had permitted the use of such evidence, if it was obtained before Congress tightened the legal standards in 2005 and if a judge found the evidence to be reliable.

Civil liberties groups already angry over some of Obama’s recent moves on detainee issues — such as his reversal Wednesday on releasing detainee-abuse photos — are strongly opposed to this move as well, which they describe as “reviving” the tribunals from the Bush-era.

“The military commissions are built on unconstitutional premises and designed to ensure convictions, not provide fair trials,” the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, said in a statement last week. “Reducing some but not all of the flaws of the tribunals so that they are ‘less offensive’ is not acceptable; there is no such thing as ‘due process light.'”

The new rules would continue to allow the admission of hearsay evidence, or statements made by witnesses or defendants outside of court. However, where such evidence was previously presumed reliable, the party wanting to bring in out-of-court statements would now have to prove their reliability.

The hearsay issue is critical because conviction of some defendants could depend on statements that other detainees made during interrogations.

Administration officials stressed that no final decisions have been made about which of the roughly 240 detainees will be tried before the newly constituted commissions. Some are also expected to be tried before regular federal courts, while others will be released. read more here......

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