GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEES SEEK RULING
- GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEES SEEK RULING
Edward Alden, Financial Times, 9/3/03
Lawyers for the British, Australian and Kuwaiti citizens imprisoned
by the US in the war on terror are asking the Supreme Court to rule
that they cannot be held indefinitely at the US prison camp in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The case, if taken up by the court, would raise fundamental questions
about whether the US has the legal authority to hold foreigners
without the protection of either the US courts or the Geneva
convention governing war prisoners.
In strongly worded briefs to the court filed on Monday, lawyers for
the detainees argued that if the court refuses to hear the case, it
would sanction the creation of "penal colonies" in which foreign
prisoners of the US have no legal rights.
Two US lower courts have ruled that they have no jurisdiction to
intervene because the detainees are foreign nationals being held
outside US territory.
Those decisions have angered the UK government, which is pressing the
US in bilateral negotiations to ensure that the two British citizens
held at Guantanamo Bay are given fair trials, including the
possibility of an appeal to US civilian courts. The US has said it
plans to bring the two before military tribunals under special rules
that would allow no outside appeal.
Since the September 11 2001 attacks, the US has imprisoned hundreds
of suspected terrorists - most captured during the war in
Afghanistan. A handful have been released but nearly 700 remain
imprisoned at a US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Thomas Wilner, who represents the families of 12 Kuwaitis held at the
base, told the Supreme Court that if the lower court decision stands,
it "enables the government to establish penal colonies for foreigners
outside the United States that are totally outside US law".
Joseph Margulies, representing the two UK and two Australian
detainees, argued that while US courts have accepted that the
government can try war prisoners abroad, no administration has been
authorised to imprison foreigners indefinitely without legal recourse.
"The government's disdain for the principles of justice and the rule
of law is unprecedented in our history," he wrote.
The government has 30 days to respond to the petition, after which
the court must decide whether it will hear the case.
The court might be reluctant for fear of infringing on the
administration's ability to prosecute the war on terrorism. The
government has promised to bring the prisoners before military trials
soon or to release them.
"The war on terrorism can be expected to last a very long time," said
Mr Wilner. "The standards we set now will prescribe the nation's
behaviour for years to come," he wrote.
INJUSTICE IN GUANTANAMO
New York Times, 8/22/03
As the prisoners in Guantánamo approach their second anniversary in
captivity, the Bush administration is finally talking about bringing
them to trial. The delay in holding trials, and releasing the
innocent, is unacceptable. So are the rules the administration has
outlined for conducting their trials. The Defense Department should
heed the calls of respected voices in the legal community, including
that of the American Bar Association, and develop fairer procedures.
The detainees held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of
involvement in terrorism have been in custody so long it may seem
that they have been found guilty of something. But the detainees,
most of them captured in the Afghanistan war, have not had trials,
and it is not clear when they will. Relatives and human rights groups
say many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were
picked up based on bad intelligence.
The administration has indicated that it intends to start putting the
detainees before military tribunals soon. The procedures that have
been adopted for these proceedings are unfair. The trials themselves
may be held in secret, and lawyers can be prevented from speaking
publicly about the proceedings. Secret trials make it impossible for
the outside world to determine whether justice is being done...
BUSH'S PERSONAL RULE OF LAW
Nat Hentoff, Washington Times, 8/18/03
Immediately after Tony Blair's soaring speech to Congress on July 17,
the prime minister and the president were asked at a press conference
about a rift between the two countries concerning whether two
captured British citizens, imprisoned at Guantanamo, would be getting
a fair trial under the prospective military tribunals at that
American base. President Bush noted that he and Mr. Blair would
address that issue, but then the president said, without
qualification: "The only thing I know for certain is that these are
The president of the United States was, in effect, publicly
prejudging the guilt of these defendants. It was like the trial
in "Alice in Wonderland" when the Queen of Hearts insisted: "Sentence
first - verdict afterwards."
It was not surprising that the president discarded the presumption of
innocence. After all, he alone on his authority has already
designated two American citizens "enemy combatants," sending them to
military brigs on American soil indefinitely - without charges,
without access to a lawyer or to anyone but their prison guards....
GUANTANAMO SUICIDE ATTEMPTS RISE TO 31
Associated Press, 8/20/03
Another terrorism suspect at the Pentagon's prison in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, has tried to kill himself, the second such attempt in as many
This week's suicide attempt was the 31st since the high-security
prison opened in January 2002, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Barbara
Burfeind said Wednesday. She said the suicide attempt happened in the
last few days but could not be more specific.
Twenty prisoners have tried to kill themselves, some more than once.
None have so far succeeded.
Most attempts occurred this year, which officials and critics alike
have attributed to the effects of indefinite detentions on prisoner
morale. Some of the prisoners have been held for more than a 18
months without charges, access to lawyers or indications of whether
or when they may be freed...
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