ACLU Joins Supreme Court Appeal on Rights of Guantanamo Detainees

January 14, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU Joins Supreme Court Appeal on Rights of Guantánamo Detainees


NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union today joined a broad-based coalition in filing a friend-of-the-court brief calling on the Supreme Court to assure that the detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay have access to the courts to challenge the legality of their detention.

“In depriving the Guantánamo prisoners of the universally recognized right to due process before the law, our government not only flouts the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the ‘decent opinion of mankind’ sought by our nation’s founders in the Declaration of Independence,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “No government should be able to assume such unilateral authority over people’s basic rights, most crucially during times of threat to our own democracy.”

The brief supports an appeal in two related lawsuits filed last year by relatives of 16 Guantánamo detainees who argued that their continued detention without any legal process violates the government’s constitutional and treaty obligations. The signers of the brief take no position as to what process is due the prisoners, but argue that the Due Process Clause and the Geneva Conventions require the nation’s courts to ensure some kind of process.

Rather than rule on the merits, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia had ruled that the Guantánamo camps were part of the “sovereign territory of Cuba” and thus outside the jurisdiction of U.S. laws. The prisoners were effectively declared non-persons because no law protects them and no court may hear their pleas.

“The government’s assertion that it is entitled to lock people up without any hearing at all violates our most basic notions of fundamental fairness,” said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU. “Indeed, the government’s deliberate effort to avoid all review by holding these detainees at Guantánamo only underlines the need for judicial review in this case.”

Among the human rights, legal and religious organizations joining the ACLU as friends-of-the-court are: the American Jewish Committee, Amnesty International, the Anti-Defamation League, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Human Rights Watch, Islamic Circle North America (Relief), the Law Society of England and Wales, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Association of Social Workers LDF, the National Council of Churches, People for the American Way, the Religious Action Center, the Rutherford Institute, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, and Union for Reform Judaism.

The brief is online at /node/36326

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