June 12, 2008

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of "Habeas Corpus" as a Constitutional Right

Supreme Court backs Guantanamo detainees
In rebuke to administration, suspects may appeal in U.S. civilian courts

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than six years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The administration opened the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold enemy combatants.

The Guantanamo prison has been harshly criticized at home and abroad for the detentions themselves and the aggressive interrogations that were conducted there.

The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.

The administration had argued first that the detainees have no rights. But it also contended that the classification and review process was a sufficient substitute for the civilian court hearings that the detainees seek.

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