Supreme Court to rule on Guantanamo

US human rights activists are hoping the Supreme Court will weigh in soon on the legality of the secretive incarceration of prisoners at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Some prisoners at notorious camp said to be 'tortured'

    The court must decide whether to take up requests for a judgement on the matter filed by human rights organisations, diplomats, former judges and retired military officers.

    The plaintiffs believe the court should intervene to declare that US President George Bush’s administration is denying justice to approximately 650 men from 42 countries, held prisoners by the United States in Cuba.

    They believe that the Bush administration’s abuse of civil liberties under the pretext of the so-called “war on terrorism” will eventually affect all Americans.

    The Centre for Constitutional Rights has unsuccessfully argued in federal court that the detainees have a right to a lawyer and to appear before a judge.

    A series of cases have now been filed with the Supreme Court on behalf of 16 of the prisoners, including Kuwaitis, Australian and British nationals.

    Vague response

    Even if the nine justices of the Supreme Court decide to consider the matter, it is difficult to predict how they will respond.

    One clue may be found in Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s 1998 book, All the Laws But One, advocating the limitation of civil liberties during wartime.

    But earlier this year, one of his colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer told lawyers: “The Constitution always matters, perhaps particularly so in times of emergency."

    A ruling or silence from the Court “will be an important statement either way”, predicted lawyer Ira Robbins.

    Detainees at Guantanamo are
    "illegal combatants”, says US

    “At least we will find out where the court stands and maybe they will make an important statement protecting civil liberties,” said Robbins, a Supreme Court expert.

    In a recent editorial, the New York Times wrote that the Supreme Court “has a duty to step in and stand up for civil liberties”.

    But the nation’s highest court may choose to remain silent, as it did during World War II, refusing to make a statement on the detention of Japanese and Japanese-Americans detained in prison camps in the United States.

    Legal status

    To date, federal courts have said that the Guantanamo detainees do not have the same legal rights as prisoners held in the United States, due to the legal status and location of the base.

    The Bush administration says that the Guantanamo prisoners, most of them captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the 11 September 2001 attacks, are “illegal combatants”, not protected as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

    The military enclave on the southeastern edge of Cuba was granted to the United States in a 1934 treaty.

      

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.