Wrangling over rights of Guantanamo detainees

Wow! There must not have been anything much in the way of rights for enemies seized in "war" in the newly formed US.
The government argued before Supreme Court justices that more than 300 Guantanamo Bay detainees have enjoyed greater rights than ever envisioned in such circumstances by the country's founding fathers.



Maybe the founding fathers would have thought that unlawful combatants were equivalent to slaves since they had not invented that convenient conceptual excuse (unlawful combatants) for depriving persons of basic rights. Hilary Clinton clowns around suggesting that it is important that they have the right person in custody not mentioning at all the right of habeas corpus or to challenge detention in any other way except as being the wrong person.
Some of the cases listed show what a travesty of even the most elementary justice the whole setup is.


Wrangling over rights of Guantanamo detainees
TheStar.com - World - Wrangling over rights of Guantanamo detainees

December 06, 2007
Tim Harper
WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON – Almost six years after the first terror suspects were shipped to Guantanamo Bay, the top U.S. court yesterday revisited arguments on what has become the defining human rights issue of the George W. Bush era.

The government argued before Supreme Court justices that more than 300 Guantanamo Bay detainees have enjoyed greater rights than ever envisioned in such circumstances by the country's founding fathers.

But the lawyer representing detainees pleaded for their right to challenge detentions that have dragged on year after year with no independent arbiter allowed to rule on the legality of their imprisonment.

The court was hearing a Guantanamo Bay case for the third time and the justices were deeply engaged and perhaps deeply divided, peppering lawyers from both sides with pointed questions.

The collision of liberties and security and the basic question at issue – whether detainees should be allowed to challenge their detention before U.S. courts – spilled out onto the sidewalks in front of the Supreme Court building and into the U.S. presidential campaign.

Demonstrators dressed in orange prison garb stood outside on a snowy Washington morning and hundreds waited in line for hours to grab a seat in the courtroom.

Yesterday's hearing could ultimately have an impact on the case of Omar Khadr, the only Canadian held at Guantanamo Bay, but his case is more complex because he is one of only three detainees formally charged and facing a trial under military rules.

His lawyers filed a court brief urging the justices not to issue a ruling dealing with those who have not been charged that would "limit or jeopardize" the same rights of those facing formal charges.

The Pentagon has said it has plans to charge no more than 80 of the estimated 305 detainees who remain at the Cuban military base.

U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement told the nine-member court that Guantanamo detainees have enjoyed the fruits of a "remarkable liberalization" of original U.S. law that enshrined the legal right known as habeas corpus.

But Seth Waxman, representing some 37 detainees, argued the U.S. Congress wrongly stripped the prisoners of their rights when it passed legislation in late 2006 creating military tribunals.

He said those detainees have been confined at Guantanamo for almost six years, "yet not one has ever had meaningful notice of the factual grounds of detention or a fair opportunity to dispute those grounds before a neutral decision-maker."

Among those defended by Waxman are six Algerians who were legal residents in Bosnia when they were captured by the Bosnian military a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on suspicion of plotting an attack on the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo.

The Bosnian high court ordered them released for lack of evidence, but the military immediately recaptured them and handed them over to the U.S. military, which shipped them to Guantanamo where they have languished for six years.

"These men (were) taken by the United States thousands of miles away ... plucked from their wives and children in Sarajevo," Waxman said.

Waxman also cited the case of Murat Kurnaz, a German man who was detained at Guantanamo for four years even though U.S. investigators found he had no links to Al Qaeda.

The case, reported yesterday by The Washington Post, spotlighted the flaws in the military tribunals because he was told very little of the evidence against him when he was deemed an enemy combatant.

The top court has ruled against Bush twice, first in June 2004, when it famously clipped the president's executive power and declared detainees' fates could be decided only by the judicial branch, not the presidency.

Then in 2006 the court ruled the military commissions established by the Bush administration were illegal because the president had acted without congressional approval.

In the days before the 2006 mid-term elections, with the Republican congressional majority on its deathbed, U.S. legislators responded by passing the Military Commissions Act, which established the military panels but also stripped the prisoners of their basic habeas corpus rights, or their rights to have their case heard by a U.S. judge.

The top court at first refused to hear another appeal challenging the will of Congress, but surprisingly reversed itself last summer.

"Congress has spoken," Clement said yesterday.

Waxman, a solicitor general in the Bill Clinton government, said prisoners have been kept in isolation for six years while the courts, Congress and the military have wrangled over how best to deal with them. "The time for experimentation is over," he said.

On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said the U.S. must not indefinitely detain anyone without a safeguard that ensures the proper person is being detained.

"This is one of the bedrock principles enshrined in our constitution," Clinton said, "it is the way our founders believed we could be secure against those who would abuse government power."

A leading Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, saw the hearing as an opportunity to restate his commitment to keep Guantanamo Bay open if he is elected.

"Some people view Guantanamo as a symbol of American aggression," he said in a statement. "I view it as a symbol of American resolve. So long as it remains a vital tool to keep America safe, I will fight to keep Guantanamo Bay open."

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