Historic US Supreme Court decision refuses indefinite detention without due process for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States which concludes that federal courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals held at the Guantanamo Bay Nabal Base in Cuba.

The Supreme Court states that “...nothing in Eisentrager or in any of our other cases categorically excludes aliens detained in military custody outside the United States from the “privilege of litigation” in U.S. Courts...The courts of the United States have traditionally been open to nonresident aliens”. This decision implies that lower courts have jurisdiction to decide the extent of the detainees’ legal rights.

According to Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), FIDH’s affiliate in the U.S “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. The Center for Constitutional Rights has long believed that even in a time of danger, executive detentions have no place in a democracy “

This historic decision is the result of a case begun by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), in February 2002. In this case, CCR filed two petitions (Rasul v Bush and Habib v Bush) seeking a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Presidential Executive Order of November 13, 2001, which authorized indefinite detention without due process of law.

With this decision, the Supreme Court conform to the provitions of international human rights standards and decisions of the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights and the United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary Detention. The UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention, seized by the FIDH in January 2002, regarding the situation of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, considered that detainees are guaranteed the rights to have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed by a competent court and the right to fair trials under articles 105 and 106 of the Third Geneva Convention, or under Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) if a competent tribunal determines that they are not prisoners of war.

FIDH recalls that Guantanamo Bay detentions are not based on any legal ground and that detainees may not have been notified the grounds for their detention or the charges made againts them. Moreover, the information concerning the conditions of detention show that detainees are being subjected at least to inhuman and degrading treatments.

After this historic Supreme Court decision, the FIDH urges the Districts Courts to catch up the time lost and to consider in the first instance the merits of petitioner’s claims.

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