Spring 2003

Enemy Combatants, Secret Courts, and War Crimes Among Topics at 2003 ABA Midyear Meeting

Civil liberties and war crimes issues dominated discussion of the 2003 ABA Midyear Meeting in Seattle. Major highlights of the meeting included the adoption of two Section-sponsored resolutions.

One policy, developed by the ABA Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants and co-sponsored by the Section, calls for individuals detained by the U. S. government as "enemy combatants" to be afforded the opportunity for judicial review of their status. It also calls upon Congress, in coordination with the Executive Branch, to establish clear standards and procedures governing the designation and treatment of those who are detained as "enemy combatants." Section Council Member Neal Sonnett, Task Force chair and lead drafter of the resolution, argued that, "It is un-American to deny legal rights to Americans or anyone else in the country when they are apprehended. We cannot allow individual rights to be eroded as part of the war on terror." The resolution was approved by a 368-76 vote. Other co-sponsors of the resolution include the Criminal Justice Section, the Senior Lawyers Division, and the Sections of General Practice, Solo and Small Firms, and Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice.

The House also adopted an important Section-sponsored resolution urging Congress to conduct regular and timely oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and to adopt amendments to the statute to ensure that investigations do not violate constitutional requirements. The resolution was co-sponsored by the Sections of Litigation, Criminal Justice, Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, and Science and Technology Law, and the Young Lawyers Division.

Other resolutions co-sponsored by the Section and approved by the House, relate to asbestos disease claims, terrorist financing, new guidelines for defense counsel in death penalty cases, development of a homeless court program, and discrimination in housing against victims of domestic violence.

In addition, the Section sponsored a CLE program entitled, "Bringing Saddam Hussein to Justice: Examining the Law of War Crimes," which featured several prominent speakers, including, Hon. Robinson Everett, Former Chief Justice Military Court of Appeals; Steve Rickard, Director of the Nuremberg Legacy Project; Prof. Michael P. Scharf of Case Western Reserve University Law School; and Hon. Patricia M. Wald, Former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit and Former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Developed by the Section's Committee on International Human Rights, the program was moderated by Committee Vice Chair Raj Purohit.

For more information on these policies, please contact the Section office (tel.: 202/662-1030), or visit the Section website at www.abanet.org/irr.

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