Monday, December 19, 2005

A civil indemnity for persons wrongfully or mistakenly detained in the war on terror?

The war on terror, over some number of years, will inevitably result in the detention of some individuals who were innocent and never should have been picked up in the first place - after all, it has already happened. There is a lot of important debate, of course, around the question of review of detention, appeal, habeas corpus, etc.

Should a comprehensive legislative institutionalization of the war on terror (which is, as I have suggested before on this blog, the most important remaining task of the Bush administration beyond success in the Iraq war) incorporate a sizable civil indemnity payable by the US government to a person wrongfully or mistakenly detained beyond a certain significant period of time.

There would have to be an adjudicatory mechanism, of course, to determine who was actually wrongfully detained, and the standard would likely need to be set high. Nor would it involve an acknowledgment of liability by the US government in any sense enforceable in any other court under tort law, etc., - an act of pure and deliberate sovereign immunity. And one would have to keep the buzzards of the trial lawyers association out of it.

But a sizable indemnity - say a million dollars net of all taxes by any government per year of wrongful detention, pro rata by days - might go a long way to dealing with the need, on the one hand, to be able to detain people outside the scope of the full constitutional protections of the domestic judicial order in connection with the security interests of the war on terrorism while, on the other hand, compensating them in some fashion for the injustice of detaining the innocent for a significant time. The point of an indemnity would not be deterrence directed against the US, and would not be large enough to have that effect - it would compensate in some fashion and to some extent for the injustice, and frankly to seek some kind of public relations offset that the US does not now have.

No doubt someone has already thought of this and commented on it, as a good idea or a bad one - I'd be grateful to be pointed toward existing discussion of this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Small payments, based on a daily rate, are made to Iraqi detainees who are released by US forces from prison in Iraq.