WASHINGTON, Sept 30, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – The American Civil Liberties Union called on US military authorities Friday to release details on a captured American Islamic State fighter and to transfer him to the civilian justice system.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ACLU director Anthony Romero warned the man — apparently being held in Iraq — should not be designated an “enemy combatant,” the term the US used in the 2000s to hold terror suspects without charge or representation.
“If the reports about the US citizen are accurate, his ongoing military detention is unlawful as a matter of domestic law, and his constitutional rights to habeas corpus and to a lawyer must be respected,” Romero said.
“If the government has legitimate grounds to suspect the citizen fought with ISIS, he should immediately be transferred to the federal criminal justice system for criminal charges.”
On September 14 the Pentagon confirmed that they were holding a US citizen who had been fighting for the Islamic State group and surrendered to the allied Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria days earlier.
Since then, no details have surfaced about the person’s identity or status.
A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Major Ben Sakrisson, said Friday that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been invited to meet with the detainee.
“The disposition of the detained unlawful enemy combatant will be deliberated with the appropriate agencies; in the interim, the individual remains in DoD custody,” he said, referring to the Department of Defense.
ICRC spokesman Marc Kilstein confirmed that the group was notified, and said they are now trying to set up a visit which will aim to ensure the man’s detention conditions adhere to the law.
“We anticipate being given timely access,” he said.
The case will be a test of President Donald Trump’s administration’s stance toward the legal rights of terror and battlefield detainees.
Although no official policy is set, the administration has suggested a willingness to send new detainees in the fight against jihadist groups to the US military’s Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison compound, which former president Barack Obama had sought to shut down.
Romero said there were no legal grounds to send the Syria detainee to Guantanamo, which has been reserved in the past for foreign nationals captured in the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the specifics of this case.
But he said the department “recognizes the wide range of tools and authorities that the President possesses to protect our national security and to defeat our terrorist adversaries. All options remain on the table, and the Justice Department will continue to use every lawful investigative and prosecutorial tool to achieve these objectives.”