Supreme Court rejects Guantánamo detainees' appeals for better protections
The appeals of three Guantánamo detainees are among the first dealing with this issue to emerge from the Washington federal appeals court. The Supreme Court refused the cases without comment.
The US Supreme Court refused on Monday to take up three cases examining whether the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has struck the proper balance while deciding whether terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay are being lawfully detained or must be released.Skip to next paragraph
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The action, announced without comment, is a victory for government lawyers and the Obama administration, which has aggressively sought to limit the rights and protections available to Guantánamo detainees.
At the same time, the high-court action is a major setback for many detainees at Guantánamo and the small army of volunteer lawyers who have worked for years to expand the rights and protections of detainees.
In 2008, the Supreme Court established for the first time in a case called Boumediene v. Bush that Guantánamo detainees enjoy a constitutional right to challenge the legality of their detention by filing habeas corpus petitions in federal court. But the justices left it to the lower courts to establish which legal standards and procedures should apply in such cases.
The three rejected appeals – Al-Bihani v. Obama (10-7814), Al Odah v. US (10-439), and Awad v. Obama (10-736) – are among the first cases to emerge from the federal appeals court. They offered the Supreme Court justices an opportunity to assess whether the lower courts have struck the proper balance.
Fifty-nine decisions have been issued by federal judges in habeas corpus cases filed by Guantánamo detainees. The judges ordered 38 detainees released and denied release for 21.
The Washington appeals court has issued decisions in 10 of those cases. In four decisions, the appeals court reversed orders that the detainee be set free. In four others, it upheld rulings that the prisoner continue to be detained. In two, the court sent the case back to the federal judge for reconsideration of an issue.
Overall, the appeals court has yet to issue a ruling upholding the release of a Guantánamo detainee.
In the process, the appeals court has issued a series of binding, precedent-setting decisions that lawyers for the detainees say stack the deck against Guantánamo prisoners – many of whom could spend the rest of their lives at the terror prison camp without being charged with a crime or afforded a chance to defend themselves in a trial.
In a string of decisions, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has:
• Established that the president has broad authority to detain terror suspects at Guantánamo – authority that is not limited by international law of war principles, including the Geneva Conventions.