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House Passes Military Commissions Bill to Bring Terrorists to Justice

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September 27, 2006 | Kate Matus ((202) 226-7326) | comments

WASHINGTON – First District Congressman Paul Ryan today voted in favor of H.R. 6166, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which will allow the United States to effectively and fairly prosecute terrorists while protecting our nation’s intelligence capabilities and permitting the U.S. to continue interrogating terrorists to prevent future attacks. This legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 253-168, is the product of an agreement reached by the House, Senate, and White House. The Senate is expected to vote on companion legislation this week. 

After the Supreme Court ruled against the military commissions that the Administration had established to try accused terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay, Congress needed to act to establish a constitutional judicial system to bring these individuals to justice. H.R. 6166 authorizes the President to establish military commissions to try unlawful enemy combatants who have engaged in hostilities against the U.S. and do not belong to the regular armed forces of a country. 

Under this system of military commissions, accused terrorists can be tried for violating the laws of war, committing a hostile act against the U.S., or purposefully and materially supporting terrorists engaged in a hostile act against the U.S. The legislation also lists 28 specific crimes for which terrorists can be tried, including murder, attacking civilians or civilian property, taking hostages, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, and mutilation. 

“It’s vitally important to our national security that our military and intelligence officers can continue to interrogate terrorists in order to protect the American people and our allies,” Ryan said. “We must also make sure that 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused terrorists are brought to justice. This legislation makes this possible.” 

Among its provisions, the Military Commissions Act:

  • Establishes the procedures, rules, and legal framework for trying accused terrorists, based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

  •  Creates a process to effectively and fairly prosecute terrorists, while also protecting American troops and intelligence agents fighting terrorism around the world.

  • Requires a detainee to be informed of the charges against him as soon as it is practicable. No person would be required to testify against himself at any commission proceeding, and no statement obtained by torture would be admissible. Sets standards for statements allegedly obtained through coercion.

  • Protects classified evidence, making it privileged from disclosure to accused terrorists, as well as the panel of jurists, if the disclosure of the information would be detrimental to national security. The legislation provides that intelligence sources, methods, or activities shall be protected, but the substantive findings will be admissible in an unclassified form, allowing the prosecution to present its best case while protecting classified information.

  • Fully conforms with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, as well as all applicable U.S. laws and international treaty obligations.

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