Scalia remarks spark furor as high court prepares to hear military tribunals case

[JURIST] Newly-disclosed comments by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made after a speech [recorded video] at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland earlier this month have touched off a furor in the lead-up to Tuesday's oral arguments in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [Duke Law backgrounder; merit briefs] on the constitutionality of using military tribunals [JURIST news archive] to try foreign terror suspects. Asked about the constitutional rights of Guantanamo detainees following his March 8 talk [University of Fribourg announcement, in French], Scalia said bluntly that "foreigners, in foreign countries, have no rights under the American Constitution." In reference to detainees receiving civil court trials instead of facing military tribunals, Scalia said of a prisoner, "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy." Newsweek has more.

Salim Hamdan [Trial Watch profile], who was captured in Afghanistan after serving as Osama bin Laden's personal driver and is currently held by the US military at its prison in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], Cuba, faces charges [US DOD chargesheet] of conspiracy and terrorism set to be tried by a military commission [JURIST report]. The Bush administration claims it was given power to create military commissions after the September 11 attacks. Lawyers for Hamdan, who has now been held in Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] for four years, believe Hamdan should be tried before an already-established US court and that the US has violated international treaties by denying Hamdan prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions. Knight-Ridder has more.

In 2003 Scalia recused himself [AP report] from a case on the Pledge of Allegiance after making public remarks on it. Chief Justice John Roberts has already recused himself from Hamdan because he ruled on the case while serving as federal appellate judge. Reuters has more.

 

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