|A military guard (R) stands nearby detainees (L)
inside the US Detention Center in Guantanamo Bay
© AFP/File Paul J. Richards
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Senate on Friday beat back a Republican measure forbidding civilian trials for non-American terrorism suspects, the latest skirmish of a 10-year battle over the fate of detainees.
Senators voted largely along party lines to defeat Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte’s proposal by a 47-52 margin in the face of stiff opposition to the legislation from US President Barack Obama.
Lawmakers have feuded over the best way to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists since the September 11, 2001 attacks, and fighting over the issue is sure to last through to the November 2012 elections.
Ayotte’s plan would have required military tribunals for so-called “enemy combatants” who are not US citizens but are members of Al-Qaeda or affiliated groups and are planning or carrying out an attack on the United States.
Democrats noted that there have been 300 successful terrorist prosecutions in civilian courts, against just three before military commissions.
“By depriving us of one of our most potent weapons in the fight against terrorism, the Ayotte amendment would make it more likely that terrorists escape justice and innocent lives will be put at risk,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat.
Ayotte argued that the protections of civilian courts could make it harder to convict terrorists and contrasted Obama’s opposition to her proposal to his assertion that he had the legal right to order the killing of US national and key Al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaqi.
“If the Obama administration is willing to kill enemy combatants without due process, why is it so against placing these same enemy combatants in military custody and treating them under the law of war?” she said.
“I am concerned that it’s a political decision, rather than putting foremost gathering intelligence to protect the American people and treating these enemy combatants as who they are: enemies of our country,” said Ayotte.
© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license