For Immediate Release
February 20, 2007
Susan Lehman, 212–998–6318
Mike Webb, 212–998–6746
Jonathan Hafetz, 212–998–6289
Appeals Court Gives Government The Authority to Establish Prisons Outside the U.S. That Operate Beyond the Rule of Law
Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Court of Columbia dismissed habeas corpus petitions from approximately 400 people currently detained at the U.S. Detention Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The 2–1 ruling for the Government in the case of Boumediene v Bush and Al Odah v United States, leaves the 400 prisoners—many of whom have been detained without charge for more than five years—without a legal means to challenge their detention.
This, the first Appellate Court ruling on the court stripping provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, gives the government the right to establish prisons outside the U.S. that operate beyond the reach of the law.
“If you are outside the U.S., you dont have constitutional rights. Effectively thats what the Court of Appeals held,” said Jonathan Hafetz, litigation director for the Brennan Center for Justices Liberty and National Security Project, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. This means the United States government has the authority to detain people without charge, torture them, and hold them indefinitely and without meaningful access to the courts, so long as it does so off U.S. soil.”
“In this case, the government presented a false choice between liberty and security. The Court’s decision legitimizes the choice and offends fundamental Constitutional values,” Mr. Hafetz added.
A number of other Appeals Courts will have the opportunity to redress harm presented by unchecked executive power: The Fourth Circuit Court, for example, will have the opportunity to hear the case of al-Marri v Wright, in which the government is seeking to deprive a lawful resident alien arrested in Peoria, Illinois, of Habeas Corpus and due process. And, the District Court of Columbia is now reviewing Munaf v Harvey, a case challenging the Executive Branch’s attempt to deny judicial review to an American citizen detained in Iraq who, if he is turned over to the Iraqi government, will be executed pursuant to a death sentence obtained at an Iraqi trial that lacked basic due process. The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law is involved in both cases.
This ruling is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Jonathan Hafetz is available to speak about the Boumediene and Al Odah decision and about executive detention generally.