USA: Guantánamo Bay - US Supreme Court must end logic of lawlessness

“The US government has offered a vision of a world in which arbitrary unchallengeable detentions, potentially for life, are acceptable.

“The Supreme Court must reject this vision and extract the Guantánamo detainees from the legal black hole into which they have been thrown in the name of national security.”

The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the US courts have jurisdiction to consider habeas corpus appeals from the hundreds of foreign nationals detained without charge or trial at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

The lower courts have so far largely sided with the executive in its efforts to keep the judiciary out of the equation.

The US government has claimed that, because Cuba has ultimate sovereignty over the Guantánamo base, even though the USA clearly has full jurisdiction and control over the base and the detainees held there, it is free to deny the right of any person under international and US law to seek judicial review of their detention.

Kate Allen continued:

“Under international law, no detainee can fall into the sort of legal abyss that the US administration has attempted to create. The right to judicial review is a fundamental right enshrined in international law. This right applies to all detainees everywhere, even during times of emergency, including armed conflict.”

There is global concern that the USA is setting a dangerous example in its “war on terror” detention policies. Other governments have already cited the example of Guantanamo Bay in justifying their own abusive conduct.

Kate Allen concluded:

“By flouting fundamental principles of international law, the US government’s detention policies are making the world a less secure place. When any state, let alone a country as powerful as the USA, adopts a selective or contemptuous approach to international law and standards, the integrity of those standards is eroded.

“The threat to human rights represented by al-Qa’ida and other groups seeking to attack US and other civilians around the world is a real one and must be confronted. However, governments must do so by respecting fundamental and universal human rights principles, rather than give in to a logic of lawlessness, which is ultimately self-defeating.”

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