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Senate committee defense budget includes military commission reforms

[JURIST] The US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] announced Friday the approval [press release] an appropriations bill that would alter the rules of evidence used in military commission trials. The version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 [S 1033 materials], which cleared the committee unanimously, would add language to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] reforming the use of classified, coerced, and hearsay evidence and allow defendants greater access to exculpatory evidence. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) [official website] said that the changes were necessary for the military commissions to be considered "regularly constituted courts" within the meaning of the 2006 Supreme Court [official website] decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The bill now moves to the full Senate for approval.

Last month, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced [JURIST report] that he would use the controversial military commissions system to try some Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. The move drew criticism [JURIST report] from human rights groups, which called the plan "fatally flawed," continuing a long line of criticism of the commissions [JURIST report] for admitting some evidence that is barred from federal court, including hearsay or coerced confessions. In January, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable and no later than one year from the date of this order."

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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