Crossing a Moral Line: Long-Term Preventive Detention in the War on Terror
Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 3/4, pp. 15-21, Summer/Fall 2008
7 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009
Date Written: October 15, 2008
The long-term preventive detention (LTPD) of suspected terrorists cannot be assimilated to LTPD of prisoners of war (POWs). The difference turns on the fact that they are on different sides of an important moral line, distinguishing those forms of detention that respect the claim to liberty of autonomous people from those that do not. In brief, punitive detention for crimes autonomously committed is the paradigm of a detention procedure that respects autonomy; short-term preventive detention (e.g. pre-trial detention) and preventive detention of those whose capacity for autonomy is compromised and who are a danger to themselves or others can also be justified as respectful of individuals’ rights to liberty. POWs can be respectfully detained because they cannot be held criminally liable for the use of force; they are privileged to engage in combat. But suspected terrorists can be held criminally responsible, and therefore their detention without trial disrespects them as autonomous agents.
Keywords: preventive detention, terrorism, prisoners of war, autonomy
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