Judge Upholds Guantánamo Prisoner's Right to Challenge Indefinite Detention

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Judge Upholds Guantánamo Prisoner's Right to Challenge Indefinite Detention

Ruling Rejects Justice Department Motion to Dismiss Mohammed Jawad's Habeas Appeal

NEW YORK - A
federal judge today denied the Justice Department's motion to dismiss
or delay a challenge to the unlawful detention of Mohammed Jawad, a
Guantánamo prisoner who has been held in U.S. custody since he was a
teenager. In February, the government filed a motion continuing Bush
administration efforts to deny Jawad his right to challenge his
detention in federal court until after the Guantánamo military
commission case against him is complete, even though President Obama
has ordered a halt to all military commission proceedings.

"Today's ruling is vindication of
the right to challenge indefinite detention," said Jonathan Hafetz,
staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union National
Security project and counsel in Jawad's habeas case. "While the Justice
Department chose to continue Bush administration policies that sought
to evade scrutiny of Mr. Jawad's unlawful detention, today's order
emphasizes the importance of independent judicial review for prisoners
who have been held for years with no legal recourse. A prompt habeas
hearing is especially necessary because Mr. Jawad's mental and physical
well-being continue to be jeopardized by the harsh conditions in which
he is being held at Guantánamo. This order upholds Mr. Jawad's right to
have his day in court."

In the order, U.S. District Court
Judge Ellen S. Huvelle of the District of Columbia states that earlier
cases asserting the right of prisoners to challenge their detention
require "‘prompt' adjudication of Guantánamo detainees' habeas cases." 

Jawad has been in U.S. custody since
he was captured when he was possibly as young as 14, and is one of two
Guantánamo prisoners the United States is prosecuting for war crimes
allegedly committed when they were children. Jawad's former military
commission prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, submitted a 14-page
statement in support of the ACLU's habeas corpus challenge stating that
the flaws in the commission system make it impossible "to harbor the
remotest hope that justice is an achievable goal." Lt. Col. Vandeveld's
statement describes torture Jawad suffered in U.S. custody.

A status hearing has been scheduled
for April 27. Attorneys on the habeas case are Hafetz, Arthur Spitzer
of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and U.S. Air Force Major David
J. R. Frakt.

Additional information about the Jawad case, including Judge Huvelle's order, can be found online at: www.aclu.org/jawad

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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.

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