Supreme Court weighs Guantanamo habeas cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments Wednesday in the consolidated cases of Boumediene v. Bush (06-1195) [docket; merit briefs] and Al Odah v. United States (06-1196) [docket; merit briefs] on whether detainees at Guantanamo Bay should be allowed to challenge their detentions in federal court. The Court is considering [questions presented, PDF] whether the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] "validly stripped federal court jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by foreign citizens imprisoned indefinitely at the United States Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay" and also "whether Petitioners' habeas corpus petitions, which establish that the United States government has imprisoned Petitioners for over five years, demonstrate unlawful confinement requiring the grant of habeas relief or, at least, a hearing on the merits." During arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia seemed skeptical of the detainees' argument that they should be entitled to civilian court review, with Scalia asking for an example of when an alien detainee held under similar conditions has been allowed to challenge his detention in civilian court. Roberts also pressed the detainees' lawyer on why the length of detention - six years for many detainees - was important.

The cases [LII backgrounder; JURIST report] are on appeal form the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which earlier this year upheld [PDF text; JURIST report] the habeas-stripping provision of the controversial Military Commissions Act as applied to "enemy combatants." AP has more.

2:49 PM ET - The transcript [PDF text] of Wednesday's oral arguments is now available.

 

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