Supreme Court, Congress Must Restore Habeas Corpus
Washington, DC (February 21, 2007) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is extremely disappointed in the decision in which a divided panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that none of the prisoners at Guantanamo Naval Base have any right to challenge their indefinite imprisonment in federal court. The court ruled, in effect, that the United States can imprison people virtually forever without judicial review. These prisoners were captured by the United States, are confined in prisons built by the United States, are guarded by members of the United States Armed Forces, are subjected to interrogation by the United States intelligence services, and may be imprisoned for the rest of their lives, yet they cannot even petition a court for a writ of habeas corpus for determination whether their imprisonment was the result of a mistake.
Dissenting, Judge Judith W. Rogers reminded the majority that the United States Supreme Court has already stated that “[a]pplication of the habeas statute to persons detained at the [Guantanamo] base is consistent with the historical reach of the writ of habeas corpus." She further wrote that the D.C. court "offers no compelling analysis to compel the contrary conclusion.” The Constitution’s Suspension Clause, she said, acts as a limitation on the powers of Congress.
“The United States Supreme Court has twice ruled that the writ of habeas corpus extends to the prisoners at Guantanamo Navy Base, yet the lower courts and the Congress refuse to get this message,” said NACDL President Martin S. Pinales. “We hope the case proceeds quickly to the Supreme Court and that the court again will vindicate the historic and fundamental right to habeas corpus and uphold the right of the imprisoned to seek redress in court. Anything less is unthinkable in a democratic society that prides itself on upholding the rule of law and fidelity to the traditional values on which its legal system is based.”
NACDL also urges Congress quickly to rectify the problem it created last year in the Military Commission Act, which, by denying the Guantanamo detainees and others access to the courts, has regrettably returned us to the dark era predating not only the Geneva Conventions, but the Magna Carta.