Big news yesterday: U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon has ordered the release of five detainees who have been held at Guantanamo without charges since January 2002. Judge Leon ruled that the Justice Department had not proved that five of the six Algerian detainees at Guantanamo were enemy combatants under the government’s own definition, and ordered them released “forthwith.”
“Seven years of waiting for a legal system to give them an answer . . . in my judgment is more than enough,” he said. In an unusual statement, he urged the government not to appeal his decision and “to end this process.”
Judge Leon’s ruling is the first on whether the government’s evidence is sufficient to justify the confinement of a detainee. The order springs from the landmark Supreme Court Boumediene decision in June that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their confinements in federal court under the legal doctrine of habeas corpus. HRF welcomed that decision as a step toward restoring the credibility of the United States as a nation committed to due process and the rule of law. Judge Leon’s ruling is a forceful indictment of the administration’s detention policies.