Supreme Court reinstates detainee suit against Rumsfeld, others
The move sets the stage for an appeals court to review the rights of Guantánamo prisoners.
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Lawyers for the four former detainees disagree. "This petition raises issues at the core of ordered liberty," wrote Washington lawyer Eric Lewis in his brief to the court. "The right to worship free from abuse and the right to be free from physical torture are enshrined in the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the Convention Against Torture, military law, and US statutes."Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Lewis said the federal appeals court had thrown out the detainees' lawsuit based on a holding that Guantánamo detainees enjoyed no constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court overturned that ruling last June in the Boumediene decision. Specifically, the court ruled that detainees had a right to challenge the legality of their open-ended confinement by the military.
"While the right to challenge confinement ... is of critical importance," Lewis wrote, "this case presents the opportunity to recognize and enforce rights that are at least as basic and essential to human autonomy – the right to worship and the right not to be tortured."
The four British citizens are Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Jamal al-Harith. Three of the men were captured in Afghanistan by a local warlord and turned over to the US military. The fourth was captured by US forces. They claimed to have gone to Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission. All were sent to Guantánamo.
The action by the high court drew praise from human rights groups. "We applaud the Supreme Court's efforts to guide the United States back to the rule of law by ordering the appeals court to reconsider this case's claims of torture and abuse of the men's religious rights," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
"Amnesty hopes that the appeals court will carefully reconsider its decision in light of the US Supreme Court's significant Boumediene ruling," he said in a written statement. "It is important to help to provide answers and closure to the four men who were held without charge in Guantánamo Bay and then released." Mr. Cox added: "It is the least the US government can do."
The detainees' lawsuit alleges that they were subjected to beatings, prolonged solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, extended exposure to heat or cold, threats from dogs, forced nakedness, repeated body cavity searches, denial of food and water, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and denigration of their religious beliefs, including the submersion of the Koran in a toilet bucket.