For Immediate Release: February 21, 2007
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC ruled that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 strips Guantanamo detainees of the right to challenge their detention in U.S federal courts. The Court’s decision came in two related cases, Boumediene v. Bush and Odah v. United States.
“The Court of Appeals’s ruling runs counter to one of the most important checks on unbridled executive power enshrined in the U.S. Constitution: the right to challenge imprisonment in a full and fair proceeding. If allowed to stand, this ruling would permit the government to hold prisoners, potentially indefinitely, without having to show to a court of law why the person has been detained,” said Hina Shamsi, Deputy Director of Human Rights First’s Law and Security Program. “As the dissenting opinion correctly argues, Congress may suspend the writ of habeas corpus only in times of rebellion or invasion, the most grave national emergencies. U.S. courts are well able to decide detention cases that raise both national security and individual liberties concerns.”
More than 770 people have been detained at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since it opened in January 2002. In 2004, in the Rasul v. Bush case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. In October 2006, President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act into law, which, among other things, sought to strip detainees deemed to be “unlawful enemy combatants” of the opportunity to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, including pending cases. The threshold issue in the Boumediene and Al Odah cases was the Constitutionality of the MCA habeas-stripping provision.
“This case will undoubtedly head to the U.S. Supreme Court now. We hope the Court will correct this erroneous decision by reaffirming the Guantanamo detainees’ right to a full and fair hearing,” added Shamsi.
Human Rights First opposed the Military Commissions Act, citing, among other flaws, concerns about the Constitutionality of the habeas-stripping provision.
For more information about Human Rights First’s concerns click here.
For additional information about the Guantanamo detainees’ challenges to their detention click here.