Amendment for both the Defense Appropriations and Defense Authorization bills:
Both the U.S. Senate
and the U.S. House of Representatives have passed different versions of the Defense Appropriations bill this year. When the
Senate took up the Defense Appropriations bill last month, it first voted 90-9 to include the McCain-Graham-Warner Anti-Torture
Amendment. This important amendment represents a good step forward to bring U.S. interrogation practices in line with core
principals of U.S. and international law. The House had passed a different version of the Defense Appropriations bill earlier
this year, but had not included such an Anti-Torture Amendment.
As the House appoints conferees for the Defense Appropriations
bill, Representatives may choose a procedural maneuver to demonstrate support for the Anti-Torture Amendment. A Representative
may go to the House floor and call a vote on a "motion to instruct" the conferees to include the Anti-Torture Amendment in
the Defense Appropriations bill, as passed by the Senate. Amnesty International is urging Members of Congress to support a
"motion to instruct" in the House of Representatives to direct conferees to retain the Anti-Torture Amendment in the Defense
Appropriations bill as passed by the Senate.
The Senate also recently took up the Defense Authorization bill and passed
the same McCain Anti-Torture Amendment overwhelmingly by voice vote. The Defense Authorization bill provides the policies
and laws that apply to the entities
that receive funding through the Defense Appropriations
bill; the bill usually passes every year, but it is not absolutely required. Opponents to the Anti-Torture Amendment may claim
that the amendment only belongs in the Defense Authorization bill because it defines policy, and not on the Defense Appropriations
bill, which usually only contains funding provisions. The problem is that the Defense Authorization bill is desired but not
essential. The Anti-Torture Amendment opponents will then let the Authorization bill wither away, and never pass it through
Congress for the President's signature. But the Defense Appropriations bill must pass. The Anti-Torture Amendment should be
adopted in both bills, passed by both chambers, and signed into law by the President. Amnesty International would oppose a
motion to strip the Anti-Torture Amendment as passed by the Senate from the Department of Defense Appropriations bill. Amnesty
International supports inclusion of the Anti-Torture Amendment in the Defense Appropriations bill, as well as the Defense
Graham Amendment to the Defense Authorization bill:
10, Senator Graham offered and the Senate passed an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill that would prevent
detainees in Guantanamo and anyone determined to be an “enemy combatant” from accessing federal courts. The Graham
amendment strips U.S. federal courts of jurisdiction and prohibits them from hearing the cases of individuals held at Guantanamo
who are challenging their indefinite detention without charge or trial.
On November 15th, Senators Graham, Levin and
Kyl reached a compromise amendment that was incorporated in the final Senate version of the Department of Defense Authorization
Bill. The compromise amendment was an improvement compared to the initial Graham Amendment, but still prohibits detainees
in Guantanamo from filing habeas cases. Senator Specter, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, spoke against the amendment and
urged his colleagues to vote against the amendment and allow this to be done through the careful consideration of the Judiciary
committee and not the hasty negotiation of an amendment.
The first part of the amendment remained the same. It requires
the Secretary of Defense to submit procedures to the Senate for the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs), prevents evidence
obtained by coercion from being considered, and makes the position of the person in charge of the CSRTs subject to confirmation
by the advice and consent of the Senate. The amendment also states that no court has jurisdiction to hear a habeas claim from
a detainee in Guatanamo, reversing the ruling of the Supreme Court in Rasul v. Bush, which found that federal courts
did have jurisdiction to hear habeas claims.
Because there are differences between the House and
Senate passed versions of the Department of Defense Authorization bills, Congress must appoint a select group of Representatives
and Senators to a "conference committee" responsible for reconciling the discrepancies between House and Senate versions of
legislation and agreeing on one final version for both chambers to vote on and send to the President for signature. The House
version of the bill passed in June and did not include an amendment similar to Graham amendment.
Committee: Because there are differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the Department of Defense
Appropriations bills and the Defense Authorization bills, Congress will appoint a select group of Representatives and Senators
to a "conference committee" for each bill. The conference committees are responsible for reconciling the discrepancies between
House and Senate versions of legislation and agreeing on one final version for both chambers to vote on and send to the President
for signature. For this reason, we'd like activists to contact their Representative in support of the Anti-Torture Amendment,
and if possible their Senators to encourage continued support for the Anti-Torture Amendment without revisions and as passed
by the Senate.
Developments in the House and Senate continue to change on extremely short notice, and Amnesty
International will work to update actions quickly as appropriate. Click here for updates.