[JURIST] Speaking Wednesday at a news conference [transcript] after a US-EU summit meeting in Vienna [press release; White House backgrounder], President George W. Bush suggested that the White House is open to having Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees tried in US courts, as opposed to Guantanamo-based military commissions where a few are currently facing trial. After reaffirming his commitment to "ending Guantanamo" [JURIST report] and to releasing some detainees into the custody of their home nations, Bush said:
There are some who need to be tried in U.S. courts. They're cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they're let out on the street. And yet, we believe there's a -- there ought to be a way forward in a court of law, and I'm waiting for the Supreme Court of the United States to determine the proper venue in which these people can be tried.This is not the first time the White House has floated the idea of US trials for Guantanamo prisoners. In a May 4 interview [transcript] for a German television station, Bush said, "I very much would like to get [Guantanamo detainees] to a court. And we're waiting for our Supreme Court to give us a decision as to whether the people need to have a fair trial in a civilian court or in a military court." Bush echoed the possibility of trying Guantanamo detainees in US courts during a May 9 joint press conference [transcript] with Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark, when he said, "I believe they ought to be tried in courts here in the United States. We will file such court claims once the Supreme Court makes its decision as to whether or not -- as to the proper venue for these trials. And we're waiting on our Supreme Court to act." The US Supreme Court has been asked to determine the legality of military commission trials for foreign detainees in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report]. The Court's opinion is expected by the end of June.
In the joint summit declaration released after the US-EU meeting Wednesday, the US appeared to acknowledge criticism of its Guantanamo policy by promising to "ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply fully with our international obligations, including human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law. We attach great importance to our ongoing in-depth dialogue on our common fight against terrorism and our respective domestic and international legal obligations."