Thursday, June 12, 2008

Supreme Court: detainees at Guantanamo have right to civilian court appeal of their detentions

The Supreme Court has ruled today, 5-4, that military detainees at Guantanamo Bay may appeal their detention in civilian courts. This reverses an earlier ruling by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. The ruling was based in large part on the concept of writ of habeas corpus, and all of the constitutional history surrounding it. The decision strikes down part of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that denies Gitmo detainees the right to file petition under habeas corpus.

The case is Boumediene et al v. Bush, President of the United States, link here.

Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia dissented.

There is a bill in Congress, S 185, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, govtrack reference here.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have supported closing down the prison in Cuba. Obama wants to scrap the military tribunals, but McCain wants to move them to Fort Leavenworth KS.

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution reads “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

Some observers maintain that trials of the detainees may take much longer, and the effectiveness of the administration's prosecution of the "war" is compromised. Documentary films (such as that of Morgan Spurlock) have questioned how many of the detainees really had been involved with Al Qaeda.

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