Supreme Court reinstates detainee suit against Rumsfeld, others
The move sets the stage for an appeals court to review the rights of Guantánamo prisoners.
Handing another defeat to the Bush administration, the US Supreme Court on Monday summarily reversed a federal appeals court decision that had upheld the administration's restrictive view of detainee rights at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.Skip to next paragraph
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The high court reinstated a lawsuit filed against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials by four former detainees at Guantánamo. The four men, all British citizens, were held at the camp from 2002 to 2004.
Government lawyers had argued successfully to a federal appeals court panel that American officials were protected from such lawsuits by qualified immunity. The panel threw the case out in a decision announced in January.
Six months later, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Boumediene v. Bush, ruling for the first time that Guantánamo detainees enjoy at least some constitutional rights. The court did not outline the full scope of those rights, leaving that task to the lower courts.
The Supreme Court's action on Monday sets the stage for the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to directly address the scope of constitutional and other protections that will apply to Guantánamo detainees. In its order, the high court issued a one-sentence instruction to the appeals court. It said that the appeals court's earlier decision "is vacated and the case is remanded to the [DC appeals court] for further consideration in light of Boumediene v. Bush."
Solicitor General Gregory Garre had urged the high court to reject the appeal. In a brief to the court, he told the justices that the appeals court's earlier decision did not conflict with any high court decisions, including in the Boumediene opinion.
"The court of appeals reasonably concluded that military detainees could not impose personal monetary liability on the nation's military commanders for overseas conditions of confinement during a time of war," Mr. Garre wrote.
He added that since the detainees had no clearly established rights at the time, US officials could not now be sued for allegedly violating those rights.