Guantanamo Bay Ruling

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Column on Supreme Court ruling

                                 Guantanamo Bay Ruling and Torture

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Habeas Corpus rights of so-called “detainees” and “enemy combatants” to challenge their imprisonment is an indictment against the Bush White House for their use of “indefinite detention” and torture at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and beyond.

 

In the 5-4, Boumediene v Bush, decision the Court agreed with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ argument that the Federal District Court, in Washington D.C.—where the case was first heard—indeed had jurisdiction to listen to the Habeas Corpus petitions of prisoners. The plaintiff, Lakhdar Boumediene, is a naturalized citizen of Bosnia; being held at Guantanamo. Boumediene was one of six men seized in October 2001, in Bosnia, on suspicion of terror activities. However, although all six men were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Supreme Court of Bosnia, they were inexplicably turned over to American forces who took them to Guantanamo Bay.

 

The Court affirmed under the Habeas Corpus” statute that “detainees” could argue they were being held “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” The Bush Administration stated “foreign enemy combatants” had no constitutional rights because they were “aliens” being imprisoned outside the sovereign boundaries of America.

 

However, Justice Anthony Kennedy articulated the court’s rejection of that scurrilous notion saying “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” Kennedy pointed out that concepts like “sovereignty” can’t be used to decide whether there are constitutional rights present because that would be “subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain.”

 

 Bush appointee, Chief Justice John Roberts dissented; saying the court had struck down “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded ‘aliens’ detained by this country as enemy combatants.” Roberts is alluding to the so-called “protections” granted in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. That legislation was rushed thru a Republican-controlled Congress because the Supreme Court had ruled—in Rasul v Bush (6-3 on June 29, 2004) that “detainees” did have the right to habeas writs to challenge their imprisonment.

 

So, to cover and continue their abuses, the White House and their Republican minions decided to craft this unconstitutional anti-“rule of law” bill. It’s clear their intention was to circumvent the safeguards enshrined in the Constitution and in the Geneva Conventions, which former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez called “quaint” in his January, 2002 memo. In that memo, Gonzalez made the mendacious assertion that Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was invalid in the fight against “terrorism.”

 

But there was another interesting thing about that memo: it proposed a way to insulated officials from war crimes prosecutions. For, Gonzalez argued that there was language in the Geneva Conventions like prohibitions critical of “outrages against human dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” which could subject military leaders and Administration officials to possible prosecutions under the War Crimes Act of 1996.

 

Under this legislation anyone who violates a “grave breach of the Geneva Conventions” could be prosecuted, like those contravening Geneva’s prohibition against “willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering of serious injury to body and health” Under this law any American citizen found guilty could face a life sentence, or, the death penalty. Now we see the real reason for the adoption of the Military Commissions Act of 2006: to water-down the War Crimes Act of 1996, thereby, limiting the scope of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

 

That fear of war crimes prosecution should be noted given the recent statement by “President” Bush that he “approved”, of a high-level cabinet meeting to discuss torture methods to be used like sleep deprivation, water-boarding etc. We know that Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet all took part.

 

The Supreme Court ruling is important for two main reasons. For one thing, the approximately 270 persons who have been held, some for six years with no charge, can now challenge their “indefinite detention” and force the White House to show just cause. Another equally important reason is that it sets the stage, later on, for the possible prosecutions of these criminals in this Administration.

 

Over the past few years much empty lip-service has been given to the concept of the “rule of law.” The duplicity of this White House is astounding. While they have professed their love for “democracy” at every turn they have undermined it. When this Administration “approves” torture for those who haven’t been given a fair hearing, and allows “enemy combatants” to be flown to so-called “black site” countries, where torture is routine, how can Bush claim “we don’t torture?”

 

The Justice Department’s Inspector General, on Tuesday, released a 370 page report detailing the White House’s ignoring of FBI concerns regarding the torture of prisoners. On June 9, Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against George Bush, why aren’t more of our “leaders” supporting Kucinich?

 

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