June 13, 2008
Boumediene v. Bush Supreme Court Decision
NAKASEC joins civil rights advocates in applauding a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, June 12, 2008, that reinstated the principle of “habeas corpus”, a cornerstone of Western legal traditions, for detainees held at the Guantánamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba. This means that detainees have the right to hearing before an independent judiciary – in this case U.S. civil courts – learn the specific reason for their detention and challenge it.
This is the third time that the Supreme Court have repudiated the Bush Administration’s attempts to hold the detainees outside the protections of U.S. law. The court has ruled twice previously that people held at Guantanamo without charges can go into civilian courts to ask that the government justify their continued detention. Each time, the administration and Congress changed the law to try to deny due process.
Re-affirming due process for all is an important victory in protecting our nation’s commitment to the rule of law. Moreover, this decision comes at a critical time when immigrant rights and civil liberties organizations are working to ensure the same due protections, such as the right to have a fair day in court, are maintained for immigrant communities.
Joining Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion were Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter. Writing separately, Souter said the dissenters did not sufficiently appreciate “the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years.” The dissenters were Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Of the 5 to 4 decision, Justice Kennedy stated, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” and that “Within the constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person. … Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”