Federal appeals court dismisses former Guantanamo detainees’ habeas petitions

Federal appeals court dismisses former Guantanamo detainees’ habeas petitions

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that two former Guantanamo detainees cannot continue to litigate their habeas corpus petitions and refused to order the Government to rescind their designations as “enemy combatants.” Nazul Gul and Adel Hamad were detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] for several years, during which they filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, but each was transferred to the custody of other foreign sovereigns before the merits of their petitions were ruled upon. Accordingly, both men remained designated as “enemy combatants,” a label which they claim has resulted in collateral consequences that continue to burden them. Gul and Hamad argue that the harm they suffer from their status as “enemy combatants” is sufficient to warrant a judicial remedy. The court rejected this argument however, as each of the harms alleged was either unable to be redressed by the court or too speculative to sustain the exercise of federal jurisdiction. Judge Douglas Ginsburg, discussing one of the alleged harms, wrote:

Gul and Hamad next argue that because they are designated enemy combatants, the United States does not consider them “civilians”; and, therefore, under the laws of war, it may recapture, again detain, and even kill them. This claim of injury is the most speculative of all: The appellants apparently have no basis whatsoever for believing the Government might pursue them because of their continuing designation (or for that matter, any other reason). Indeed, the Government no longer attaches any legal significance to the term “enemy combatant.”

The court’s ruling affirmed that of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], which had previously dismissed as moot [JURIST report] 105 habeas petitions of non-citizen former detainees who are no longer in US custody. Friday’s decision affects the status of those individuals as well.

Earlier this month, an EU official told the Miami Herald that Europe is still willing to resettle [JURIST report] Guantanamo detainees despite Congress’ efforts to prevent closure and transfers. In a display of commitment to a 2009 agreement [JURIST report] with the US, the EU reiterated that detainees would still be accepted on a case-by-case basis. So far, 27 detainees have been transferred to European countries including Germany, Italy, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia and Belgium [JURIST reports]. With 171 detainees left at Guantanamo, the EU’s support of transferring detainees comes just weeks after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] defended his plans [JURIST report] to prosecute terror suspects in federal civilian courts, responding to harsh criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) [official website] urging two Iraqi-born terror suspects in Kentucky be sent to Guantanamo.