[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] late last week made public two previously unreleased rulings relating to habeas corpus claims by Guantanamo detainees. In a decision ordering the release of Mohamedou Ould Slahi [NYT materials], Judge James Robertson held that the government had to release Slahi because it was unable to prove that he was part of, or provided support to, al-Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] at the time of his capture. Applying a test articulated by Judge John Bates in Hamlily v. Obama [decision, PDF; JURIST report], which limited the detention of terrorism suspects who are not actual members of terrorist groups under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text, PDF], and rejected the Obama administration's "substantial support" standard, Robertson explained:
[A] habeas court may not permit a man to be held indefinitely upon suspicion, or because of the government's prediction that he may do unlawful acts in the future - any more than a habeas court may rely upon its prediction that a man will not be dangerous in the future and order his release if he was lawfully detained in the first place. The question ... was whether, at the time of his capture, [Slahi] was "part of" al-Qa[e]da. On the record before me, I cannot find that he was.The government plans to appeal [WP report] the decision. On Thursday, the court released the decision [text, PDF] of another judge in the habeas petition of Guantanamo detainee Muktar Yahya Najee al Warafi [NYT materials]. The court rejected Warafi's claim that his detention violated the AUMF and Article 24 of the Fourth Geneva Convention [text]. The court found that the government did have enough proof to hold him under the AUMF, and that the Geneva Conventions may not be invoked in a habeas proceeding. Also on Thursday, a third district court judge rejected [order, PDF] the habeas petition of Yasin Qasem Muhammad Ismail [NYT materials], but the full decision has yet to be released.
The court originally ordered the release [JURIST report] of Slahi in March. Slahi was once considered a key al-Qaeda leader and prosecutors had sought the death penalty against him [WSJ report]. A prominent government prosecutor stepped down from the case [PBS interview] because he did not support the alleged abusive treatment used against Slahi, which was investigated in a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report [text, PDF]. Last May, Judge Gladys Kessler applied the "substantially supported" standard [JURIST report] for reviewing habeas petitions filed by detainees, making no reference to the "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] classification used previously. Last April, Judge Reggie Walton adopted [JURIST report] the "substantially supported" standard for authorizing and reviewing the detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.