SCOTUS Rules Gitmo Detainees Can Challenge Detention in US Civilian Courts


The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Guantanamo detainees yet again. According to the AP, SCOTUS ruled today that “foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.”

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court’s liberal justices were in the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

We may finally see some progress on this issue. Twice before, the Supreme Court has ruled prisoners at Guantanamo held without charges can go to American civilian courts to ask that the federal government justify their detention. Both times, Congress has changed the law to keep them from doing so. But in both instances, Congress was controlled by Republicans and the White House was occupied by George Bush. With Democrats in control of Congress and two presidential candidates who favor the shuttering of Gitmo, we may finally begin down the path to justice sometime in 2009.

Background on the case is available here. For the recent Mother Jones cover package on detainees and torture, see here. For an inside look at Guantanao, check this out.

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