Once again the US Supreme Court has ruled in a learned and very sensible way. Today, it has ruled that those detained at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in the US civilian courts. The court overturned a previous ruling that upheld a 2006 law banning the detainees from challenging their detention in civilian courts by a majority of five to four.
This brings us closer to the rule of law finally being restored in the United States of America. It has effectively been suspended because of the War on terror with the passing of the Patriot Act and the use of Guantanamo Bay (among other things).
The US Government argued that the detainees were enemy combatants being held at a time of war outside the US. However, the US Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that they had “the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus”.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said:
“The laws and constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”
This is the third time since 2004 that the US Government has lost in the Supreme Court in relation to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, who are being held their indefinitely without charge.
The first time came in 2004, when the judges found that existing law gave federal courts the right to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals held at Guantanamo because of the unique control the US government had over the land leased from Cuba.
Two years later, it ruled that the president did not have the authority to order the “enemy combatants” there to face military commissions.
In 2006 The Military Commissions Act (MCA) was passed. It removed the right of habeas corpus and set up tribunals to try detainees who were not US citizens.
Last week, five detainees, including key suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, appeared before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed dismissed the trial as an “inquisition”.
President Bush made it clear that the government would “abide by the court’s decision”, although he did so while saying he agreed with the four dissenting judges.