Judge Upholds Guantánamo Prisoner's Right To Challenge Indefinite Detention

April 22, 2009 12:00 am

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Ruling Rejects Justice Department Motion To Dismiss Mohammed Jawad’s Habeas Appeal

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NEW YORK – A federal judge today denied the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss or delay a challenge to the unlawful detention of Mohammed Jawad, a Guantánamo prisoner who has been held in U.S. custody since he was a teenager. In February, the government filed a motion continuing Bush administration efforts to deny Jawad his right to challenge his detention in federal court until after the Guantánamo military commission case against him is complete, even though President Obama has ordered a halt to all military commission proceedings.

“Today’s ruling is vindication of the right to challenge indefinite detention,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union National Security project and counsel in Jawad’s habeas case. “While the Justice Department chose to continue Bush administration policies that sought to evade scrutiny of Mr. Jawad’s unlawful detention, today’s order emphasizes the importance of independent judicial review for prisoners who have been held for years with no legal recourse. A prompt habeas hearing is especially necessary because Mr. Jawad’s mental and physical well-being continue to be jeopardized by the harsh conditions in which he is being held at Guantánamo. This order upholds Mr. Jawad’s right to have his day in court.”

In the order, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle of the District of Columbia states that earlier cases asserting the right of prisoners to challenge their detention require “‘prompt’ adjudication of Guantánamo detainees’ habeas cases.”

Jawad has been in U.S. custody since he was captured when he was possibly as young as 14, and is one of two Guantánamo prisoners the United States is prosecuting for war crimes allegedly committed when they were children. Jawad’s former military commission prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, submitted a 14-page statement in support of the ACLU’s habeas corpus challenge stating that the flaws in the commission system make it impossible “to harbor the remotest hope that justice is an achievable goal.” Lt. Col. Vandeveld’s statement describes torture Jawad suffered in U.S. custody.

A status hearing has been scheduled for April 27. Attorneys on the habeas case are Hafetz, Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and U.S. Air Force Major David J. R. Frakt.

Additional information about the Jawad case, including Judge Huvelle’s order, can be found online at: www.aclu.org/jawad

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