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Reform Jewish Movement Opposes Administration's Indefinite Detention of Jose Padilla

Contact:Alexis Rice or David Segal

Wishner: As we oppose the indefinite detention of an American citizen, we reaffirm our commitment to a strong, effective security grounded in law and respect for individual rights.

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2004 - The Union for Reform Judaism, along with other religious and legal organizations, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in the case of Rumsfeld v. Padilla. Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Jose Padillla, a U.S. citizen apprehended in Chicago, and later taken into military custody, labeled an "enemy combatant" by the Administration, and detained in a military brig in South Carolina for nearly two years without charge and without access to counsel The Supreme Court will be reviewing a lower court's determination that Padilla should be released from military custody and, if appropriate, transferred to civilian authorities who can bring criminal charges against him in civilian courts. Jane Wishner, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

The Union for Reform Judaism expresses deep concern over the Administration's decision to detain indefinitely Jose Padilla, a United States citizen, taken into custody in the United States far from any zone of combat, and hold him in military custody without charge and without access to counsel on the ground that he is an "enemy combatant." Padilla should be charged and tried in the civilian court system where he will be afforded the full range of due process and other constitutional protections guaranteed by law, rather than held indefinitely without charge in military custody.

The Supreme Court will enter the debate over Padilla's detention by reviewing the federal appeals court decision of December 2003 that the President does not have the power to detain Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant. The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit voted 2-1 that the U.S. government must release Padilla from military custody within 30 days and can transfer him to civilian authorities who could bring criminal charges against him. The government appealed the case, which is now before the Supreme Court.

We and our fellow amici affirm that, "to preserve liberty, any departures from ordinary constitutional safeguards require both judicial scrutiny and congressional mandates." As we argue in the brief, the government has detained Padilla "on a claim of military necessity, without due process of law, despite an express statutory prohibition of detention of a United States citizen without congressional authorization. The history of the overstated claims of military necessity…, and of the resulting violations of liberty and due process of law, confirms the wisdom of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in this case. Amici urge this Court to affirm the ruling below that Jose Padilla be released from military custody and, if warranted, returned to the civilian courts."

As we oppose the indefinite detention of an American citizen, we reaffirm our commitment to a strong, effective security grounded in law and respect for individual rights.

Guided by the highest ideals of the American legal system and inspired by our religious heritage, the Union for Reform Judaism supports the right of Jose Padilla to be afforded the protections of due process and judicial review of detentions. We must not ignore the lessons of history: effective prosecution of terrorists does not require us to abandon the protections and fundamental freedoms embedded in our Constitution and judicial system.

Douglass Cassel, Director of the Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern University School of Law, authored the brief; along with the Union for Reform Judaism, other signatories include the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the San Francisco Bar Association, the Shalom Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .

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