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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Court gives detainees habeas rights


As background info, habeas corpus means,
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody.
Also known as "The Great Writ," a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is a summons with the force of a court order addressed to the custodian (such as a prison official) demanding that a prisoner be brought before the court, together with proof of authority, allowing the court to determine whether that custodian has lawful authority to hold that person, or, if not, the person should be released from custody.
I just got home and haven't had the chance to read the actual (lengthy) Supreme Court decision, but, according to SCOTUS blog,
Court gives detainees habeas rights
In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.
That is, the government cannot deny the Gitmo prisoners habeas corpus rights unless it suspends them under the Suspension Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

From the sound of it, the Court has granted citizens' rights to terrorists who are not citizens of the USA, who are not on US soil and therefore are not subject to US laws.

Another part of the decision appears to apply only to American citizens,
In a second ruling on habeas, the Court decided unanimously that U.S. citizens held by U.S. military forces in Iraq have a right to file habeas cases, because it does extend to them, but it went on to rule that federal judges do not have any authority to bar the transfer of those individuals to Iraqi authorites to face prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in that country in violation of Iraqi laws.
My question is, in either case, are they considered criminals, or are they prisoners of war? If they are POWs, why grant them rights under criminal law?

James Joyner has a great roundup on the decision, and I agree with Lean Left:
If these people are prisoners of war, then treat them as such. If they are not, then they are criminals and should be treated the same as every other criminal in the care of the federal government.
And if the death penalty applies, then indeed, go ahead.

It's possible that Scalia is wrong when he predicts more Americans will die as a result of this ruling. It may be that al Qaeda is a weak enough enemy that America can vanquish it even with the Supreme Court tying one hand behind our back. Anyway, keeping future detainees away from Guantanamo should prevent them from coming within the reach of the justices' pettifogging.

Perhaps decades from now we will learn that detainees ended up being abused in some far-off place because the government closed Guantanamo in response to judicial meddling. Even those who support what the court did today may live to regret it.
Five Justices in air-conditioned roomsin DC may think troops will be mindful of habeas corpus and all that in the heat of battle. They are wrong.

The Court holds that not only do the terrorists have a habeas right, but they have a Super Special Celebrity Killer Habeas Right, entitling them to judicial "review" -- pre-review, actually, as there's nothing yet to review -- of the entire scheme of the once-upcoming process before it actually unfolds. This despite the fact that the DTA actually granted a right to challenge the procedures, with later Article III court review (that is, a real judicial court defined by Article III under the constitution, and not a quasi-court as are established by Congress and run by the Executive), a right to challenge the terrorists never bothered availing themselves of.

The Court could easily have found the terrorists do have habeas rights, but that filing is premature, as they would with any other citizen criminal in the country. For reasons clear only to themselves, they didn't.

Guessing at a non-retarded opinion, I figured maybe there might be some initial habeas review to determine if these guys are being lawfully held in the first place (which, of course, they are, the same as it was lawful to hold all those Nazi prisoners we took), and that a habeas review of their criminal incarceration would only be ripe once they were actually convicted.

Nope. They went the full-on retard route. The prisoners get to challenge their trial in advance of actually having the trial.

And the majority laughingly posits that part of their reason for demanding this is to prevent delay in their claims being heard. Uh-huh.
What a disgrace.


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At 3:47 PM, Blogger Anthony (Los Angeles) said...

I disagree with Lean Left: these people are neither common criminals nor prisoners of war as defined by the relevant conventions. In fact, they are illegal combatants whom, under the Geneva Convention (the third, I think), we had every right to shoot after capture. For all the sound and fury from the Left (and Sen. McCain) about the Geneva Conventions, few really understand them.

Anyway, back to the Court: today's decision just shows why this election is crucial. Yeah, I know we say that about every one, but it's true here. The next president will pick 2-3 Justices, and I'll be darned if I want Obama to have that choice, since I know he'll give me more like the nitwits who came up with today's masterpiece.

At 12:40 AM, Blogger Pat Patterson said...

There have been claims of summary executions of Germans in US uniforms during the Battle of the Bulge for decades but no actual proof that any took place. The Third Convention demands that these soldiers have the right to have their status determined.

But the interesting part of the ruling could put the Democrats in a bind in that the Suspension Clause does indeed refer to rebellion and invasion but also the public safety. The President could ask that legislation be passed that would continue the detentions on the basis of the public safety demand or take away the power of review in these particular cases. Plus eventually there will be some Democratic president in the same position and he will need the old precedent to fight another one of these assymetrical wars.


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