Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gitmo Case Goes to the Supremes, While Senate Votes on Detainee Transfer

The legal controversy revolving around the Chinese Muslims detained at Gitmo is heading to the the nation's highest court:
The Supreme Court set aside the objections of the Obama administration and said Tuesday that it will consider whether judges have the power to release Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States if they have been deemed not to be "enemy combatants."
The case, involving a group of Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs, again thrusts the court into the jangle of policy decisions and constitutional principles involving the approximately 220 men still held at the base in Cuba. And the court's decision to hear it could further complicate plans to close the military prison in January, a deadline the Obama administration recently said it might be unable to meet.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has given legislative approval for allowing Gitmo detainees to be brought to the U.S. mainland under certain conditions:
After dropping some popular immigration-enforcement measures, Congress on Tuesday passed the 2010 homeland security spending bill that gives President Obama the authority to transfer terrorism-suspect detainees to the United States for trial, though only after he submits a plan to Congress...
The spending bill funds more than 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents, pays for more border security technology and extends the E-Verify program, which allows businesses to check a government database to make sure their new workers are legal. But it doesn't require further construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
E-Verify was extended only for three years, and a provision allowing businesses to check their existing work force in addition to new hires was dropped.

The bill also contained a provision that prevents the disclosure of detainee abuse photos.

Founder: Human Rights Watchdog No Longer Has Credibility

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Robert L. Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, says the organization has lost its way by no longer distinguishing between open and closed societies and instead adopting a moral equivalence game:
When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.
Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.
Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
...Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.