Supreme Court Backs Rights for Terror Detainees

From NPR:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are protected by the Constitution and can appeal their detention in U.S. civilian courts. The 5-4 decision overturns a law that denied habeas corpus rights to terrorism suspects.

A step in the right direction–a return to the rule of law.

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20 thoughts on “Supreme Court Backs Rights for Terror Detainees

  1. It’s actually not a return to the rule of law, since the ruling violates longstanding international military law.

    Anyone not in a uniform nor wearing an easily recognized badge of identification who is undertaking military or intelligence operations is considered a spy and can be summarily executed. No rights or protections are granted to such individuals under any written international law of warfare.

  2. Exactly. Look, these people are being treated better than ANY unlawful combatants, as defined by the Geneva Convention, have ever been treated in history. They’re fed so well, they’re getting fat. They have complete freedom to practice their religion, to the point that our soldiers aren’t allowed to touch their Korans. They are foreign nationals, captured in war zones, while plotting or attempting to kill Americans. We are completely justified to intern them. We would’ve been equally justified, under the so-called “rules of war”, to take them out behind a rock and put a bullet in their heads when they were captured.

  3. I’m not saying we should have done it. I’m saying that under the Geneva Conventions, to which the US is a signatory, Jonolan’s statement is correct. They are considered “unlawful combatants” and do not have Geneva Convention protections.

    I guess I don’t understand where they have standing to sue for habeus corpus in the American Federal court system, when they were captured in a war zone.

    If anything, I think this proves that Congress and the President both abdicated their responsibility back in 2001 and 2003…Bush should have gone to Congress and asked for a formal declaration of war on Afghanistan for harboring the Taliban, and on Iraq for their repeated violations of UN resolutions since 1991 and the WMDs that everybody thought were there. With a formal declaration of war, then these guys would truly be prisoners of war, and this whole “unlawful combatant” cluster would be a moot point. It may be just a piece of paper, but that formal declaration of war really changes the rules.

  4. They are foreign nationals captured in war zones and that should end it right there.

    We are not justified to intern them. If we were going to call them spies, we should have shot them already. The moment we choose to “detain” them, we changed the rules. At the very minimum they deserve to have the same conditions as specified by the Geneva conventions. That is not enough, not nearly enough, in my estimation.

    Either we are a society that values Law or we aren’t. What we are doing, permanently detaining people because they MIGHT have been involved in a conflict without the hope of a fair presentation of the evidence against them is just plain wrong.

  5. The problem, Lewis, is that some of the people in GitMo were not “Captured on the battlefield.” They were SOLD to the US for bounties on terrorists.

    Jonolan–that’s not entirely accurate. According to the Geneva Conventions, “An unlawful combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is a civilian who directly engages in armed conflict under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action.[1]

    Capture of a Franc-Tireur, by Carl Johann Lasch
    The Geneva Conventions apply in wars between two or more states. Article 5 of the GCIII states that the status of a detainee may be determined by a “competent tribunal”. Until such time, he is to be treated as a prisoner of war.”

    The tribunal is where the distinction lies. Once again, our administration has failed in its duty to stick to laws–our own or the international ones you cited.

  6. “If anything, I think this proves that Congress and the President both abdicated their responsibility back in 2001 and 2003”

    On that we totally agree. The ball was dropped, but Bush wanted to be able to do what he wanted without accountability. It doesn’t work that way.

  7. “…and on Iraq for their repeated violations of UN resolutions since 1991 and the WMDs that everybody thought were there.”
    Dude, please. The people working on intelligence didn’t think so, neither did the millions of people who were actively protesting the march of war to Iraq and there were even politicians and a few lone voices in the media. It would be nice if people who were willingly ignoring dissenting voices to not alter their preconceived notions would not just chalk it off to “nobody could have predicted” stuff.

    Also, are you aware of all the prisoner abuse that has and continues to take place in gitmo? People who thanks to a ridiculous legal limbo can be detained for years who committed the most heinous crime of being in the wrong place (their own country) at the wrong time? Seriously, how does this make sense?

    This is not to speak of the really really idiotic view that “Gitmo is not part of the US, so US law doesn’t apply.” Somebody should notify the cubans, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind taking back control of a non-US piece of their island.

  8. I should clarify: the “Gitmo is not part of the US” comment is not in response to anything that has been said here. It was just my rant auto-pilot refusing to shut down.

  9. But let us not forget that by and large, the intelligence community did believe that Sadam was either making WMD or preparing to start again.

    While evidence prior to our move into Iraq was already mounting against this, it was accepted.

    Afghanistan is a completely different animal. I was involved in a lot of political action during that period. Afghans were afraid that they were going to be forgotten, and they have. The UN peacekeepers in Afganistan have been almost universally forgotten as well.

    Wait, we were talking about Gitmo. As I recall, and I could be wrong, military bases and embassys are considered to be part of the country running them not the country in which they reside.

  10. Souter nails it with this:

    “A second fact insufficiently appreciated by the dissents is the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years…. Hence the hollow ring when the dissenters suggest that the court is somehow precipitating the judiciary into reviewing claims that the military … could handle within some reasonable period of time.”

    When you have sweeping guidelines for interning combatants coupled with a war that by definition cannot end (we will never completely defeat “terror”), you’re bound to have this kind of shit happen. If there is such a clear case for keeping a prisoner detained, it should be pretty easy to prove in a non-kangaroo trial.

    Beyond what the law says, think of what this says about America. We’re tromping around in foreign countries, scooping up people and shipping them to our own internment camps, with no way for them to get out except military review. It is an absolute disgrace on our nation.

  11. Wow. I may not be able to abort babies much longer in this country, but at least we can play by a fair set of war games.

    Go Team Supreme Court! (Except the conservative jerks on there I don’t heart.)

  12. IB, I think I worded my thoughts wrong. You are deffinitely correct: there was a more or less dominant view within US Intelligence that Iraq was working (or had, can’t remember what they were actually claiming) WMDs.

    What I had in mind was the many times that international inspectors, aka IAEA, which most certainly is not considered an intelligence agency, (DAMN YOU HANS BRIX!) found absolutely no signs at all of weapons programs and ended up being basically kicked out of the country thanks to the invasion.

    Now, there was also (in hindsight, well deserved)
    skepticism amongst some that the Administration was pressuring the Intelligence community to tell it what it wanted to hear. So yeah, while now we know the US Intelligence Community got it dead wrong, at the time it was trusted by a fairly large amount of people.

  13. the IAEA inspectors were probably the loudest voice of dissent leading up to final decision to invade. I am still floored about how much those people were ignored.

  14. Officergleason,

    That’s not exactly correct. The current Administration tends to discount foreign evidence that conflicts with domestic evidence. That is, while still far from right, different from just ignoring what it doesn’t want to hear.

    I’d also like to – choking on crow a bit – place a conditional correction on my previous comment:

    There are people in Gitmo who were NOT taken in a war zone, some of them handed to us from foreign governments as part of counter-terrorism sweeps. They IMHO do NOT qualify as “illegal combatants” or spies under the rules of land warfare. Those particular individuals should enjoy all the rights and privileges guaranteed under the US Constitution – that MUST include Habeas Corpus!

    You have NO idea how much that hurts me to say, but right is right and the rule of law will out or there’s no point in this.


  15. What about the time when they ignored Americal General Shinseki about appropriate level of troop presence for the inital invasion of Iraq in favor of Romney’s?

    What about the time when they ignored Ambassador Wilson’s report about Iraq not being after plutonium from Niger?

    What about the time when they ignored the report from the Engineer Corps about the need to reinforce the levies near NoLa if they were to withstand a hurricane?

    What about the time when they time and time again repeated that Iraq was involved in 9/11 despite lack of remotely credible evidence?

    repeat ad nauseum…

  16. Pingback: Oh, the joys of legal limbo! (alternate title: The Men who most deserve a life full of nightmares always end up sleeping like babies) « Torteya

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