Thursday, November 20, 2008

Judge Grants Habeas Petition for Guantánamo Detainees

Today, Judge Richard L. Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order directing the US government to free five of six Algerian men being held as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. Judge Leon said that the information gathered on the men had been sufficient to hold them for intelligence purposes, but was not strong enough for the purposes forwhich a habeas court must evaluate it. The sixth detainee was determined to be an enemy combatant due to additional corroborating evidence. Judge Leon, because of the classified nature of the Government’s evidence, did not go into detail about the deficiencies of the Government’s case.

Among the detainees was Lakhdar Boumediene, the lead plaintiff in the Boumediene v. Bush in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the detainees had a constitutional right to file habeas petitions in the federal courts to seek their release. The 5-4 decision said a 2006 law unconstitutionally stripped the prisoners of their right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus lawsuits. A NY Times article reports in greater detail about the facts surrounding the detention of the six men with other Guantánamo inmates.

Scotusblog reports that the judge, in an unusual comment from the bench, suggested to senior government leaders that they forgo an appeal of his ruling on freeing the five prisoners. While conceding that the government had a right to appeal that part of his ruling, Leon commented that he, too, had “a right to appeal” to leaders of the Justice Department, Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies, and his plea was that they look at the evidence regarding the five he was ordering released. Judge Leon stated “Seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to their legal question is enough”.

For BLS library materials on habeas corpus, see the SARA catalog for Habeas Corpus: Practice Commentaries and Statutes by Steven M. Statsinger (Call # KF9011 .S73 2007) with chapters that include an overview of Habeas Corpus Procedures under 28 USC Sections 2241-2255 and Filing of habeas corpus application; time requirements; tolling rules.

Also see The Body and the State: Habeas Corpus and American Jurisprudence by Cary Federman (Call # KF9011 .F43 2006) with chapters on Understanding habeas corpus -- Habeas corpus in the new American state, 1789-1915 -- Bodily inventions: the habeas petitioner and the corporation, 1886 -- Habeas corpus as counternarrative: the rise of due process, 1923-1953 -- Confessions and the narratives of justice, 1963-1979 -- Future dangerousness and habeas corpus, 1982-2002 -- Habeas corpus and the narratives of terrorism, 1996-2002.

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