Supreme Court Says Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions Are Unconstitutional; ACLU Calls Decision a Victory for the "Rule of Law"

June 29, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — In a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration, the United States Supreme Court today ruled 5-3 that the military commissions system established by President Bush to try detainees at Guantánamo Bay is unfair and illegal. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, applauded the decision.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the rule of law in the United States,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The Supreme Court has made clear that the executive branch does not have a blank check in the war on terror and may not run roughshod over the nation’s legal system. This decision moves us one step closer to stopping the abuse of power that has become the hallmark of this White House. Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decision, the president should make good on his promise and close Guantánamo.”

The military commission rules do not guarantee an independent trial court, do not provide for impartial appellate review, and do not prohibit the use of coerced testimony despite extensive evidence that coercive interrogation techniques have been used at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere.

“The government’s misuse of military tribunals is consistent with a larger pattern of abuse of power,” said Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU’s national legal director. “This is an Administration that prefers to act outside the law and without judicial scrutiny. The Court properly rejected that anti-democratic view. Our own soldiers benefit as much as the Guantánamo detainees by the Court’s insistence that the administration comply with the Geneva Conventions and the rule of law.”

The ACLU’s brief in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is available at: scotus/2005/hamdanv.rumsfeld05184/23395lgl20060104.html

Other materials in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld are online at: scotus/2005/23392res2006010405184/23392res20060104.html

To read ACLU Legal Director Steve Shapiro’s 2005 Supreme Court summary go to

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