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The Court rules on Guantanamo

Very good news (AP). Here's the WaPost story.

As is now becoming clear, the Court's ruling that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to the detainee Hamdan has major implications for the mistreatment of prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere. Common Article 3 requires that prisoners of war "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," banning "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

The State and Justice Departments are expected to release statements on the ruling later today. They'll be key to understanding what the Bush administration expects its obligations are in light of the Court's rebuke.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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A cheeky summary of the ruling could go about like this:* If you want to take away jurisdiction, you will have to do a better job than this.* Um, what part of the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions don't you understand?* A careful rereading of the steel siezures case (Youngstown) would be a good idea.I agree that ruling that CA3 of Geneva is binding is important. However, i think the reiteration of the principle of the Youngstown case, that Presidential war powers outside of Congressional action are quite limited is just as important.

What is most encouraging is that even if Roberts voted there were five members who voted for the law rather than politics. Also refreshing to see US justice reaffirm Geneva and disavow, with the rest of the world, the thugs in the White house.

Rather than resorting to devastating analysis such as references to thugs in the white house lets distract ourselves with the facts of the ruling.The ruling does not shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay nor does it question the President's right to hold unlawful combatants for the duration of hostilities. Only 10 of the roughly 450 Guantanamo detainees are immediately affected by the ruling. The ruling does not reclassify enemy combatants as ordinary prisoners of war.The eight justices participating in this case agreed that military commissions are a legitimate part of the American legal tradition that can, in appropriate circumstances, be used to try and punish individuals captured in the war on terror. None of the justices questioned the government's right to detain Osama bin Laden's bodyguard or other Guantanamo prisoners, while hostilities continue. None of the justices suggested that Hamdan, or any other Guantanamo detainee, must be treated as civilians and accorded a speedy trial in the civilian courts. Opponents of the Bush administration's detention policies have advanced these and substantiallially similar claims so the Hamdan decision is clearly a decisive defeat for supporters of Osama bin Laden. Combined with the Supreme Court's 2004 decision Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that directly affirmed the government's right to capture and detain, without criminal charge or trial, members of al Qaeda until hostilities are concluded--Hamdan vindicates the basic legal approach relied upon by the administration in prosecuting this war.What Hamdan also means is that, if the administration wishes to pursue military-commission trials, the procedures--including evidentiary rules--to be followed by those bodies will have to be revised so as to conform to the procedures applicable in ordinary courts-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This does not require Congressional action. The other alternative is that additional legislation can be obtained from Congress. This would put the issue squarley in front of the voters just in time for upcoming elections placing the supporters of Osama and Al Queda aka Ted Kennedy and the Democratic party in an awkward position. They would have to support the adminsitration's request or take the position of supporting al Qaeda terrorists. Clearly this suggests a dilemma for the highly principled leader of the Democratic party Ted Kennedy.Futhermore, one irony of Hamdan is that many of these combatants may end up being returned to their home countries where they may get far worse legal treatment. Guantanomo is a country club compared to their expected treatment in the middle east. Keep up the good work.

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