Thursday, June 12, 2008

Detainees will be able to challenge their detention

Perhaps six years late, but welcome nevertheless:

It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners’ detention. That is a matter yet to be determined. We hold that petitioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.

The determination by the Court of Appeals that the Suspension Clause and its protections are inapplicable to petitioners was in error. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The cases are remanded to the Court of Appeals with instructions that it remand the cases to the District Court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Thus says the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 decision in the case of Boumediene v. Bush (PDF). As a result, the detainees at Guantanamo will finally have their right to habeas corpus respected, meaning they can challenge their very extended detentions by the U.S. government. The court also admonished that, "To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say 'what the law is.'"

It's a decision that civil libertarians have hoped for over ... well ... too many years. And you know what they say about justice delayed.



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