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US Courts: Guantanamo Prisoners Have Legal Rights

USA: The US Supreme Court takes a step towards restoring the rule of law to Guantánamo

The United States Supreme Court has taken a step towards restoring the rule of law for the hundreds of non-US nationals in military custody in Guantánamo Bay, Amnesty International said today in an initial reaction.

"These detainees have been at the mercy of unfettered executive power for the past two and half years", Amnesty International said. "Today's ruling that the US courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the lawfulness of such detentions moves us one step closer to justice and accountability in the context of the USA's 'war on terror' detention policies."

"The US administration chose the Guantánamo naval base as a location to hold indefinitely, hundreds of those it designated as "enemy combatants" because it believed that it could keep them out of the reach of the federal courts. Today's decision punctures this assumption," Amnesty International continued.

"The government should take this ruling to heart and adopt an approach that puts human rights and the rule of law at the centre of the pursuit of security."

In a report earlier this month, Amnesty International emphasised that judicial review of the lawfulness of one's detention is a fundamental principle of international human rights law which now covers all those held in Guantánamo. Judicial review is an integral component of the prohibition against arbitrary detention and a fundamental protection against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The recent revelations from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the contents of leaked and declassified government memoranda cannot have gone unnoticed by the US Supreme Court Justices.

"Throughout this process, the administration has shown a lack of trust in its domestic courts and a disregard for its international obligations", Amnesty International said. "At the same time it asked for others to trust that it would not abuse its power. That appeal to blind faith has been rejected by the Supreme Court today."

Amnesty International believes that all those in Guantánamo should be released unless they are charged with recognizably criminal offences and brought to trial in full accordance with international standards, and without resort to the death penalty. Those held in US custody in Afghanistan or in secret locations elsewhere in the world must also be granted their full rights under international law.

Amnesty International is examining the Supreme Court decisions on Guantánamo detainees as well as the decisions in respect of Yaser Hamdi and José Padilla which were also issued today.

See: USA: Restoring the rule of law - The right of Guantánamo detainees to judicial review of the lawfulness of their detention USA: Appealing for justice: Supreme Court hears arguments against the detention of Yaser Esam Hamdi and José Padilla

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