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U.S. Supreme Court upholds Habeas Corpus rights of Guantanamo detainees

[TamilNet, Friday, 13 June 2008, 05:08 GMT]
The United States Supreme Court, in a momentous decision, widely seen as one of the most important decisions made by the Court in the last 50 years on separation of powers, ruled that foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba have the right to challenge their detention in federal courts, and that the Congress acted unconstitutionally when it stripped the Court of that jurisdiction.

PDF IconNYT Editorial: Justice 5, Brutality 4
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said in the majority opinion that the truncated review procedure provided by a previous law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, “falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute” because it failed to offer “the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus.”

In an editorial Friday, New York Times said: "For years, with the help of compliant Republicans and frightened Democrats in Congress, President Bush has denied the protections of justice, democracy and plain human decency to the hundreds of men that he decided to label “unlawful enemy combatants” and throw into never-ending detention.

"Twice the Supreme Court swatted back his imperial overreaching, and twice Congress helped Mr. Bush try to open a gaping loophole in the Constitution. On Thursday, the court turned back the most recent effort to subvert justice with a stirring defense of habeas corpus, the right of anyone being held by the government to challenge his confinement before a judge."

Other excerpts from coverage of the cases by New York Times follow:

The case decided Thursday, Boumediene v. Bush, No. 06-1195, is the third rebuff in the Bush administration's handling of the detainees in Guantanamo.

The first, in Rasul v. Bush in 2004, as part of the initial round of Supreme Court review of the administration’s Guantánamo policies, held that because the long-term lease with Cuba gave the United States unilateral control over the property, the base came within the statutory jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear habeas corpus petitions.

Congress responded the next year, in the Detainee Treatment Act, by amending the statute to remove jurisdiction, and it did so again in the Military Commissions Act to make clear that it wanted the removal to apply to cases already in the pipeline.

The court’s second-round detainee case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, was decided in 2006. The court ruled that the military commission system the Bush administration had set up to try enemy combatants for war crimes was fatally flawed because the president had acted without Congressional authorization.

That decision came in an appeal brought by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden. Mr. Hamdan’s route to court had been by means of a petition for habeas corpus, the traditional route for prisoners to get before a judge to challenge the validity of their confinement.

In its waning weeks under Republican control, Congress responded swiftly to the Hamdan decision by passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This new law not only authorized the military commission but also provided that “no court, justice or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider” further habeas corpus petitions from foreigners held as enemy combatants, at Guantánamo or anywhere else.

Related Articles:
03.02.08   Battle for Equality, Liberty
03.06.07   Judicial Corruption
03.07.05   Supreme Difference

External Links:
CCR: Landmark win for Guantanamo detainees
BBC:  Major Guantanamo setback for Bush
NYT: Habeas Corpus
NYT: For Justices, Another Day on Detainees


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