News & Current Affairs

June 14, 2008

Supreme Court: Habeas corpus is terror detainees’ right

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration yesterday for a third time for its handling of the rights of terrorism detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying those in custody there have a constitutional right to challenge their captivity in federal courts.

By a 5-4 vote that brought strongly worded and remorseful dissents from the court’s conservative justices, the majority held that an alternative procedure designed by the administration and Congress was inadequate to ensure that the detainees, some of whom have been imprisoned for six years without a hearing, receive their day in court.

“The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”

Justice Antonin Scalia took the unusual step of summarizing his dissent from the bench, calling the court’s decision a “self-invited … incursion into military affairs,” and was even stronger in a written dissent in which he was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “America is at war with radical Islamists,” Scalia wrote, adding that the decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

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