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Numerous Groups Across the Political Spectrum Rebuke Challenge to Military Commissions Act

August 24, 2007
For Immediate Release
Friday, August 24, 2007

Jonathan Hafetz, Brennan Center for Justice, (917) 355–6896

Numerous Groups Across the Political Spectrum Rebuke Challenge to Military Commissions Act

Habeas Corpus should remain cornerstone of U.S. democracy

New York— Today, more than twenty groups from across the political spectrum filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of an appeal by Guantánamo detainees. The case concerns a challenge to a 2006 law, the Military Commissions Act, which deprives the federal courts of habeas corpus review over detentions at Guantánamo.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, along with Gary Isaac and Jim Schroeder of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, coordinated all the friend-of-the-court brief filings. The groups range from former diplomats such as former Clinton National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering, retired federal judges and attorney generals to the American Bar Association and the National Institute of Military Justice. All repudiate the notion that United States can deprive individuals of habeas corpus and deny them their fair day in court.

“The wide outpouring of support in favor of preserving habeas corpus shows just how far the current administration has strayed from basic American values and traditions,” said Jonathan Hafetz, who directs litigation for the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Project.  "Habeas corpus has been a cornerstone of our democracy since the Nation’s founding, and should remain that way.

In February 2007, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the Military Commissions Act against a constitutional challenge by the Guantánamo detainees.  The Court effectively ruled that the Executive is free to create prisons beyond the law outside the United States. 

While the Supreme Court initially declined to review the appeals court’s ruling, it reversed course in June, announcing it would hear the Guantánamo detainees’ challenge to the court-stripping provisions of the Military Commissions Act.  Argument is expected in December.