ACLU Asks Supreme Court To Outlaw Indefinite Detention Of U.S. Residents
Case Challenges President’s Authority To Hold Ali Al-Marri At Military Brig
WASHINGTON - The
Supreme Court should rule it illegal for the president to indefinitely
hold U.S. residents in military detention, according to a brief filed
today by the American Civil Liberties Union. In its brief filed in Al-Marri v. Spagone,
the ACLU asks the Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision
giving the president sweeping power to deprive individuals living in
the United States of their most basic constitutional rights by
designating them "enemy combatants." Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, the
petitioner in the case, has been detained in solitary confinement at a
Navy brig in South Carolina since June 2003.
“It is clearly illegal to imprison
legal residents of the United States without trial. It is also the type
of false choice between our safety and our ideals that has pervaded
America’s approach to fighting terrorism for the past eight years,”
said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney for the ACLU and lead counsel to
al-Marri. “We are confident that upon review, the Court will strike
down this radical departure from our nation's most basic values and
In 2007, a three-judge panel of the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the government
cannot hold individuals arrested in this country in military detention
without charge. However, in July 2008, the full appeals court
overturned that ruling in a narrowly divided decision.
"This case provides the Obama
administration with an early and critical opportunity to repudiate the
abuses of the past eight years and restore the rule of law," said
Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU.
Al-Marri, a Qatari national and
legal U.S. resident, was first arrested in December 2001 at his home in
Peoria, Illinois, where he was living with his wife and children. His
case was scheduled to go to trial in July 2003, but was halted on the
eve of trial when President Bush took the extraordinary step of
designating al-Marri an "enemy combatant" and transferring him to a
military brig in South Carolina. At the brig, al-Marri was detained
incommunicado for 16 months and subjected to torture and other abuse.
The government continues to hold al-Marri indefinitely as an "enemy
combatant" based upon uncorroborated allegations that he has ties to
al-Qaeda, although no evidence has been presented to sustain these
allegations. He is the only remaining person detained as an "enemy
combatant" in the United States.
The Obama administration’s brief is
currently due on February 20. The new administration has not yet stated
its position on the issues in this case.
Attorneys in Al-Marri v. Spagone
are Hafetz, Shapiro, Jameel Jaffer and Hina Shamsi of the ACLU; Aziz
Huq and Emily Berman of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of
Law; Andrew J. Savage, III of the law firm Savage & Savage, P.A.;
John J. Gibbons and Lawrence S. Lustberg of the law firm Gibbons, P.C.;
Sidney S. Rosdeitcher of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton
& Garrison, LLP, and Mark A. Berman of the law firm Hartmann,
Doherty, Rosa, Berman & Bulbulia LLC.
The ACLU's Supreme Court brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
More information about Al-Marri v. Spagone, including legal documents and a video of Hafetz speaking about the case, is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.