Rule of Law Rules Again at Guantanamo
Constitutionality of Military Commission Trials in Doubt
Washington, DC (June 12, 2008) -- For the third time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the Bush Administration’s arguments that federal courts have no jurisdiction over persons deemed “unlawful combatants” by U.S. military forces, at Guantanamo and overseas.
“As today’s decisions emphatically make clear, neither Congress nor the Executive Branch can create ‘law-free’ zones, at Guantanamo or anywhere else within the jurisdiction of the United States, where the federal courts cannot inquire into the legality of the detention,” said Carmen D. Hernandez, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). “The federal judiciary can now examine the legality of the military detention and commission trial system in its entirety.”
Hernandez was praising the Court’s decisions in Boumediene v. Bush, in which Guantanamo detainees challenged the constitutionality of their detentions under the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act, and the unanimous decision Munaf v. Geren, which held that the habeas corpus clause extends to U.S. citizens held in detention by U.S. forces and coalition forces in Iraq.
“Separation of powers is central to our form of government,” Hernandez said. “It is the courts’ role to check the legality of acts of Congress and Executive actions affecting individual liberty and freedom. As James Madison put it over 200 years ago, the concentration of all powers in the same hands, whether of one or many, is ‘the very definition of tyranny.’
“Today’s decisions call the administration’s entire overseas detention program into question,” she said.
A friend-of-the-court brief filed by 17 prominent rights organizations, including NACDL, is posted on the association’s Web site at: