A federal judge today dismissed the habeas case of a detainee held at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, finding that Congress had not acted unconstitutionally by stripping the court's ability to hear such cases.
The ruling comes three months after the same judge found that other prisoners at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility did have the right to challenge their status as enemy combatants. In those cases, the three men were non-Afghans who had been captured in other countries and brought to the prison, located just outside Kabul.
Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the men’s special circumstances entitled them to access American courts. He ruled that a fourth man, Haji Wazir, an Afghan citizen, did not have that right however, because his release could cause undue tension with Afghanistan’s government. The judge nonetheless held off on a final decision in the case in order to look at a separate set of constitutional issues.
That ruling came today. Wazir’s lawyers had argued that the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which banned federal courts from hearing habeas cases brought by detainees, violated the constitutional separation of powers by essentially telling judges how to decide cases that were already pending before them.
Bates found differently. Citing U.S. v. Klein, the judge ruled that Congress is allowed to pass statutes that affect the underlying law involved in a case, so long as they do not dictate specific factual findings or results to a court.