Supreme Court rules Guantanamo detainees have habeas corpus privilege

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] held in the consolidated cases of Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. United States [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] Thursday that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as "enemy combatants." Overturning a decision [PDF text; JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, the Court held that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] did not deprive detainees of the right to challenge their detentions in federal court. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said:

It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners’ detention. That is a matter yet to be determined. We hold that petitioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.
Read the Court's 5-4 opinion per Justice Kennedy, and a concurrence [texts] by Justice Souter. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissent [text], joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Justice Scalia also filed a dissent [text], joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito. AP has more.

This is the not the first time that the Supreme Court has ruled against the government in a case concerning the legal rights of enemy combatants. In June 2006 the Supreme Court held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the military commission system as initially constituted violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system.

 

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