Supreme Court grants government delay in detainee photos appeal

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] issued an order Monday allowing the government more time to appeal a ruling [JURIST report] mandating the release of photos allegedly depicting detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The order, issued by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [UPI report], follows a Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] request [motion, PDF; JURIST report] last week to recall the mandate because "the Solicitor General has determined that the government will file a petition for a writ of certiorari in this case, absent intervening legislation." The order grants a 30-day delay to the government, extending the deadline to appeal from June 9 to July 9. Congress is currently considering legislation [S 1100 materials] that would exempt the disclosure of certain photographs under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] in cases where the secretary of defense certifies that such disclosure would endanger US personnel. The proposed FOIA amendment was already agreed to by the Senate [Senate record, PDF] as an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act [S 1054 materials, PDF] and would apply to any photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 that involves the treatment of those "engage[d], captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States." The new deadline for the government to appeal gives Congress more time to act.

Last week, former US Major General Antonio Taguba said that the photographs of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison depict acts of rape and sexual assault [JURIST report]. The Pentagon has denied [Reuters report] the allegations. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama decided to seek a delay [JURIST report] of the release of the photographs in question, contrary to a previous agreement by the DOJ to release them pursuant to a court order [order, PDF]. After Obama's decision to not release the photographs, the DOJ sent a letter [text, PDF] to district Judge Alvin Hellerstein saying that "the Government has decided to pursue further options regarding that decision, including, but not limited to the option of seeking certiorari." Last month, the DOJ had sent a letter [text, PDF] to Hellerstein saying that they would comply with his 2005 order to release 21 photos from Abu Ghraib. The original district court order resulted from a FOIA challenge [ACLU materials] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] against the Department of Defense. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] affirmed the order in April.

 

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