Guantanamo detainees take fight to Supreme Court

Condemned by the lower house of the US Congress to remain in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, "War on Terror" detainees are taking their cases to the Supreme Court, hoping it can break them out.

Last Updated: Dec 14, 2010, 12:30 PM IST

Washington: Condemned by the lower house
of the US Congress to remain in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely,
"War on Terror" detainees are taking their cases to the
Supreme Court, hoping it can break them out.

The House of Representatives last week approved a bill
that would prevent any detainees held in the US naval base in
Cuba from being transferred to the United States for detention
or trial.

But eight cases are pending in the highest US court,
representing nearly all of the prison`s more than 170
detainees and reflecting their diverse legal predicaments,
with final rulings expected in 2011.

US President Barack Obama vowed to shut down the
controversial military prison during his 2008 White House run
and issued an executive order shortly after assuming office to
close it by January 2010.

But Obama has missed his own deadline as the
administration has run into knotty legal issues, difficulties
in finding countries to accept detainees and congressional
opposition to trying them in US courts.

The prison currently holds 174 detainees captured
after the September 11 attacks, including three who have been
convicted and 58 who have been placed in indefinite detention
without trial.

Scores of other inmates have been transferred to third
countries, where they have been released.

The Supreme Court dealt successive blows to
then-president George W. Bush`s Guantanamo policies in 2004,
2006 and 2008, ruling in previous cases that detainees had the
right to contest their detention in US courts and hear the
evidence against them.
"Within the Constitution`s separation-of-powers
structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate
or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to
the authority of the Executive to imprison a person," the
court ruled in a 5-4 decision in June 2008.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations "have steadily
and energetically sought to keep for the executive branch most
of the control over US detention policy in the `war on
terrorism,` even as they were living under a constitutional
regime imposed on them by the Supreme Court," court expert
Lyle Denniston wrote recently on the Scotusblog website.
Federal judges have already reviewed 57 cases and
found detention to be unjustified in all but one third of
them.

But Appeals Courts have sided with the Obama
administration and steadily reversed those rulings -- 14 to
date -- as well as prohibiting any detainees from being
released on US soil.

Bureau Report