Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Guantánamo Cases

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Common Dreams

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Guantánamo Cases

Major blow to future of Guantánamo detainees' legal rights

by
Common Dreams staff

An American flag waves within the razor wire-lined compound of Camp Delta prison, at Guantanamo Bay on June 27, 2006. (Photo: Brennan Linsley/Reuters)

The Supreme Court has denied the request to review the cases of seven Guantánamo detainees who had petitioned the Court with the Center for Constitutional Rights. The petition questioned whether the detainees are allowed a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the legality of their indefinite detention. Over half of the men currently held at Guantánamo have been 'cleared for release' but are continually denied a Supreme Court hearing.

The decision leaves the fate of the detainees "in the hands of a hostile D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has erected innumerable, unjustified legal obstacles that have made it practically impossible for a [Guantánamo] detainee to win a habeas case in the trial courts," states Vincent Warren from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

"The [Supreme] Court abandons the promise of its own ruling guaranteeing detainees a constitutional right to meaningful review of the legality of their detention."

The decision comes four years after the Supreme Court's 2008 ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, which held that detainees who do not face charges have a right to challenge their ongoing confinement. Since that decision the Supreme Court has not ordered the release of a single detainee and has reversed several lower court release orders.

"By refusing to hear these cases, and any Guantánamo cases since its 2008 Boumediene decision, the court abandons the promise of its own ruling guaranteeing detainees a constitutional right to meaningful review of the legality of their detention," said Warren.

CCR called on President Barack Obama to keep his promise of closing the prison upon taking office in January of 2009.

Referring to Obama's action on Guantánamo since taking office, Shayana Kadidal, from the CCR, said on Democracy Now! today:

"I think it’s really a bit of a false narrative to claim that the president has been hamstrung by Congress. If you look back in April 2009, when the first resistance from the Republicans to closing Guantánamo was starting to emerge in the form of, you know, these bills to prevent bringing people to the U.S. for trial or resettling asylum seekers who were wrongly detained at Guantánamo in the U.S., the Democrats were silent for a couple days, waiting for leadership from the top of the party, from Obama. And when they didn’t get that from the White House, they you started to see Democratic senators say, "Well, we agree with the Republicans."

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Democracy Now!: Supreme Court Rejects Gitmo Appeals, Spelling Potential End to Prisoners’ Legal Fight for Release

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Center for Constitutional Rights: Leading Gitmo Attorneys Denounce Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Cases

Today, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari to the cases of seven Guantánamo detainees who had petitioned the Court for review of decisions by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement:

The Center for Constitutional Rights is extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in the latest set of habeas cases brought by Guantánamo detainees. By refusing to hear these cases, and any Guantánamo cases since its 2008 Boumediene decision, the Court abandons the promise of its own ruling guaranteeing detainees a constitutional right to meaningful review of the legality of their detention. Today’s decision leaves the fate of detainees in the hands of a hostile D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has erected innumerable, unjustified legal obstacles that have made it practically impossible for a detainee to win a habeas case in the trial courts. The D.C. Circuit, the country’s most conservative court of appeals, has reversed every detainee victory appealed to it by the government, and as consequence, district courts in D.C. have ruled in favor of detainees in only one of the last 12 cases before them.

For nearly 10 years, the Supreme Court’s involvement has been essential in checking the excesses of Executive-Branch detainee policy and in clearing a path in the lower courts for justice for the detainees. The Court’s refusal to get involved at this critical juncture permits the Court of Appeals to continue to rubber stamp the military’s decision-making, undermining our constitutional system of separation of powers.

In light of the failure of the courts to carry out their constitutionally-assigned role, CCR calls on the President to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo, the most infamous prison in the world. He should begin by releasing the 87 men who military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have unanimously concluded should be released on the grounds that they pose no danger to the United States.

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