Judge Dismisses Detainee Rights
- U.S. HIGH COURT JUDGE SAID TO SLAM DETAINEE RIGHTS
Alister Bull, Reuters, 3/26/06
WASHINGTON, March 26 (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin
Scalia dismissed the idea that Guantanamo detainees have
constitutional rights and called European concerns over the issue
hypocritical, Newsweek magazine reported on Sunday.
The comments, which Newsweek said were recorded at a private
appearance by Scalia in Switzerland on March 8, emerge before a
Supreme Court hearing this week on a legal challenge by a Guantanamo
prisoner against U.S. military tribunals.
"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a
combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts,"
Scalia said in the talk at the University of Freiburg, according to
Newsweek. "Give me a break."
Court officials were not immediately available for comment.
Ethics experts said the impression that Scalia had already made up his
mind before the hearing should mean that he will voluntarily drop out
of the proceedings. However, Newsweek said he did not refer
specifically to this week's case.
"He should remove himself when there is a reasonable doubt of his
impartiality," said Father Robert Drinan, a professor of law at
Georgetown University and long-standing human rights campaigner, who
teaches judicial ethics.
"It should logically be a reason for his recusal but I don't think
he'll do it ... he's so stubborn" said Drinan.
Scalia caused an outcry in 2004 for refusing to recuse himself from an
energy policy case involving Vice President Dick Cheney, following the
disclosure that they had been on a duck-hunting trip together the year
Scalia, asked at Freiburg whether detainees at the U.S. naval base at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have protections under international conventions,
gave the suggestion short shrift.
"If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he
belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my
son, and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a
full jury trial. I mean it's crazy," he said. Scalia's son Matthew
served with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Newsweek said it had reviewed a recording of the talk.
It said Scalia added that he was "astounded" at "hypocritical"
reaction in Europe to the Guantanamo prison.
Lawyers for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, accused of being Osama bin Laden's
bodyguard and driver, present oral arguments before the Supreme Court
on Tuesday to challenge U.S. President George W. Bush's authority to
try prisoners before military tribunals.
Chief Justice John Roberts has recused himself from the hearing
because he ruled on the case while he was on a federal appeals court.
Scalia has previously recused himself from a case -- one involving the
Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag -- after making public remarks
"A judge has to have an open mind; when he hears the articles and
reacts to briefs. If he's made up his mind on a particular issue, he
shouldn't be sitting (in)," said Michael Ratner, president of the
Center for Constitutional Rights.
"Here he has publicly said that this is what my position is, before
the arguments ... It's really stacking the deck," Ratner said. CCR has
argued for Guantanamo prisoner rights.
The Hamdan case is considered an important test of the
administration's policy in the war on terrorism. The tribunals,
formally called military commissions, were authorized by Bush after
the Sept. 11 attacks and have been criticized by human rights groups
as being fundamentally unfair.
There are about 500 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at the
U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The administration's argument was based on a law signed by Bush on
Dec. 30 that limits the ability of Guantanamo prisoners caught in the
president's war on terrorism to challenge their detention in federal
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