Obama Lawyers: Guantanamo Detainees ‘Not Persons’ Like Hobby Lobby

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Email: donald.campbell[AT]reprieve.org.uk
clemency.wells[AT]reprieve.org.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 207 553 8140

Obama Lawyers: Guantanamo Detainees ‘Not Persons’ Like Hobby Lobby

US - The Obama Administration is resisting giving religious rights to Guantanamo detainees on the basis that they are “not…‘person[s]’” entitled to the protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – unlike US corporation Hobby Lobby.

Responding to attempts by the detainees’ attorneys at legal charity Reprieve to ensure that their religious freedoms are recognised, Department of Justice lawyers argue that the US Supreme Court’s recent decision that “defines a ‘person’ to include ‘corporations’” makes no difference to their view that Guantanamo detainees remain non-persons.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby was legally a ‘person’ entitled to religious freedom under the RFRA.  In their submission to the US District Court in Washington, D.C. which is considering the case brought by lawyers for detainees Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani, President Obama’s lawyers do not contest that ruling.  However, they do take issue with the argument that Guantanamo prisoners should be considered ‘people’ under the same law.

In court documents filed last night ahead of a hearing tomorrow (Thursday July 10), the DoJ claims that “Guantanamo detainees […] are not protected “person[s]” within the meaning and scope of RFRA.”  They note that “In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held RFRA rights extend to for profit

closely held corporations, reasoning in part that the Dictionary Act defines a “person” to include “corporations,”’ but argue that “that opinion cannot be read as extending RFRA rights to [Guantanamo detainees].”

The court will tomorrow hear arguments concerning whether Guantanamo detainees can be denied the right to communal prayer, a key part of their faith during the current Ramadan period.

Cori Crider, an attorney at international human rights organisation Reprieve, which represents Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani, said: “It is staggering that the Obama administration is prepared to argue that Guantanamo prisoners aren’t people, while accepting that corporations are. I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognising that its inmates are people – most of whom have been cleared by his own Government.”

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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