[News] CCR wins major victory for rule of law in Guantanamo

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 29 11:39:26 EDT 2004



Supreme Court issued a historic ruling on Monday, June 28th, finding that 
the hundreds of men detained as "enemy combatants" in Guantánamo Bay can 
challenge their detention in federal courts.

On June 28, The Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in Rasul v. Bush, 
CCR’s challenge to the Bush Administration’s policy of indefinitely holding 
detainees at Guantánamo Bay without judicial review.  Center for 
Constitutional Rights (CCR) hailed today’s ruling, which held that foreign 
terrorism suspects may use the American legal system to challenge their 

The Center for Constitutional Rights began this case in February 2002, 
shortly after the first detainees were sent to Guantánamo. Representing two 
Australians­David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib­and two men from the U.K.­Shafiq 
Rasul and Asif Iqbal, CCR filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus 
in the District Court for the District of Columbia.  The petition 
challenged the Presidential Executive Order of November 13, 2001, which 
authorized indefinite detention without due process of law, as a violation 
of international law and the U.S. Constitution.  It was shortly after 9/11 
and a very different climate existed in the United States at that time: no 
other legal organization was willing to join us in our efforts, and CCR 
received scores of death threats and hate mail.

The core contention of the litigation was that the United States cannot 
order indefinite detention without due process. The detainees have the 
right to challenge the legality of their detention in court.  To make that 
challenge meaningful, they have the right to be informed of the charges 
they face, and the right to present evidence on their own behalves and to 
cross-examine their accusers.  The failure of the Bush Administration to 
provide these protections raises serious questions about their commitment 
to the U.S. Constitution and international law.

The ruling was 6-3, with Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas dissenting.  Writing 
for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens found that federal courts do 
have jurisdiction to hear detainees’ challenges to their detention.  Habeas 
Corpus, the legal principle in question, extends back hundreds of years in 
common law, and the decision cited considerable historical as well as more 
contemporary evidence that it is properly applied to cases even outside the 
territorial boundaries of the nation.

“The Supreme Court has not closed the doors of justice to the detainees 
imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay,” said CCR President Michael Ratner, adding, 
“this is a major victory for the rule of law and affirms the right of every 
person, citizen or non-citizen, detained by the United States to test the 
legality of his or her detention in a U.S. Court. The Center for 
Constitutional Rights has long believed that even in a time of danger, 
executive detentions have no place in a democracy.”

CCR is reviewing the decision, in preparation for further action on behalf 
of our clients, most of whom have been held for more than two years with no 
legal basis, no opportunity to prove their innocence, and no hope of 
release anytime in the foreseeable future.  The mother of one of our 
clients, Rabiye Kurnaz, expressed great relief on hearing that her son will 
have his day in court:

“Today, for the first time in two years I have hope.  This is a great day 
for justice.  I hope that I will hear from my son soon and can tell him 
that with this historic decision fair proceedings will start and that all 
innocents will be released from U.S. custody in Guantánamo.”

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