WASHINGTON, USA – The United States Senate has voted in favour of barring the government from imprisoning Caribbean and other nationals who are US citizens and permanent residents and are arrested and held in indefinite detention without trial.
The Senate voted 67 to 29 in adding the measure, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, as an amendment to the National Defence Authorization Act, now pending on the Senate floor.
“What if something happens, and you are of the wrong race in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you are picked up and held without trial or charge in detention ad infinitum?” said Feinstein during the floor debate.
“We want to clarify that that isn’t the case — that the law does not permit an American or a legal resident to be picked up and held without end, without charge or trial,” she added.
Feinstein said the amendment is aimed at clarifying that the US government not put US citizens arrested domestically in military detention.
She said she limited the amendment to citizens and permanent residents, otherwise known as green card holders, because she thought the language would “get the maximum number of votes in this body.”
But some legislators have objected to the amendment, saying that US citizens arrested inside the United States on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack should be held under the laws of war and interrogated without receiving the protections of ordinary criminal suspects, like a Miranda warning of a right to remain silent.
Other civil liberties and human rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First, have also objected to the amendment.
They say that it is too limited to American citizens and green card holders, rather than to all people.
“Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced an amendment that superficially looks like it could help, but in fact, would cause harm,” said Chris Anders of the ACLU.