By a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled on Monday that US courts do have jurisdiction to consider the claims of the prisoners who say in their lawsuits they are being held illegally in violation of their rights. 

The ruling did not address the merits of the claims, but allowed the prisoners to pursue their lawsuits, which lower courts had dismissed. 

Justice John Paul Stevens said for the majority that US courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. 

The justices overturned a US court appeal ruling that lawsuits should be dismissed on the grounds that the military base was outside US sovereign territory and that rights of habeas corpus were unavailable to foreign nationals outside US territory. 

Legal status

Bush's policies have been attacked by civil liberties and human rights groups, especially after the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal and questions on whether the US government has sought to condone torture during interrogations of terror suspects. 

George Bush's policies have been
attacked by human rights groups

About 595 foreign nationals, designated "enemy combatants," are being held at the base in Cuba as suspected al-Qaida members or Taliban fighters. 

Most of those at Guantanamo were seized during the US-led campaign against the Taliban government in Afghanistan and against Usama bin Ladin's al-Qaida network after the 11 September 2001, attacks on the United States. The first detainees arrived in January 2002. 

All but a handful of those at the base are being held without being charged, without access to lawyers or their families and without access to courts or a proceeding of any kind.