2nd Lead (Adds background)

Detainees have rights to U.S. Courts- Supreme Court

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 29 June 2004, 00:13 GMT]
Striking down Bush administration's argument that inmates held in Guantanamo have no right to challenge the conditions of their detention because the US courts do not have jurisdiction over the base, the U.S Supreme Court with a 6-3 majority ruled today that detainees have a right to challenge their detention in U.S courts. The Court said that the Cuban base is not beyond the reach of American courts even though it is outside the country, reports in U.S media said.

US Supreme Court Writing for the majority ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said, ''As critical as the government's interest may be in detaining those who actually pose an immediate threat to the national security of the United States during ongoing international conflict, history and common sense teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means for oppression and abuse of others who do not present that sort of threat.''

''This detention falls squarely within the federal government's war powers, and we lack the expertise and capacity to second-guess that decision,'' Justice Thomas wrote in the dissenting opinion.

Legal analysts in U.S. described these cases as covering a broader struggle between constitutional rights of individuals and Justice Department's assertive contention that during war the President's authority in matters of detainees and interrogation overrides that of the Courts.

Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a legal advocacy group that has been representing the Guantanamo detainees, hailed the ruling. CCR represented Tamil Organizations in an earlier legal action challenging some provisions of the U.S Patriot Act.

''The Supreme Court has not closed the doors of justice to the detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay,'' said the group's president, Michael Ratner, CNN reported. ''This is a major victory for the rule of law and affirms the right of every person, citizen or non-citizen, detained by the United States to test the legality of his or her detention in a U.S. Court.''

''Today's historic rulings are a strong repudiation of the administration's argument that its actions in the war on terrorism are beyond the rule of law and unreviewable by American courts,'' American Civil Liberties Union said in a written statement.

Yaser Esam Hamdi, 22, is a U.S. citizen, captured among Taliban fighters during the US-led operation in Afghanistan in 2001.

Donald Rumsfeld is the U.S. Secretary of Defence. Guantanamo Bay is a US detention camp facility located in Cuba.


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