Thursday, June 29, 2006

SCOTUS Scraps Military Tribunals for GITMO Guests

Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo War Crimes Trials
In 5-3 Decision Justices Rebuke Bush's Anti-Terror Policy
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 29, 2006; 1:22 PM

The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.

The ruling, which overturned a federal appeals court decision in which Roberts had participated, represented a defeat for President Bush, who had ordered military trials for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base. About 450 detainees captured in the war on terrorism are currently held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. Trying them before military commissions would place them under greater restrictions and afford them fewer rights than they would get in federal courts or regular military courts.

The ruling does not mean that the United States must close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility or free any of its detainees...

Full Article

Not an unexpected decision but It reigns in W's ever increasing attempts to expand the powers of the executive branchand it effectively reinstates the detainees right of Habeas Corpus (The right to know why one is being held.) Under the tribunals detainees often were never informed what they were charged with. Why is that of import? Because the Founding Fathers believed Habeas Corpus was important enough to cite the Crown's violation of it as one of the reasons for the colonies to rebel.

Additionally this ruling affords the detainees the protection of the Geneva Conventions which I found surprising. According to SCOTUS Blog:

"Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes)." (All emphasis in the last paragraph was added by yours truly.)

That certainly opens up a whole new can of worms, doesn't it?