The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the US Constitution to challenge their detention in civilian courts.
The justices handed the administration of US President George W. Bush its third setback at the high court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charge at the US naval base in Cuba. The vote was 5-4, with the court’s liberal justices in the majority.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”
It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees. Roughly 270 men are in the prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The administration opened the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold enemy combatants, people suspected of ties to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
The prison has been criticized at home and abroad for the detentions themselves and aggressive interrogations conducted there.
The court also said that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.
The administration had argued first that the detainees have no rights. But it also contended that the classification and review process was a sufficient substitute for the civilian court hearings that the detainees seek.
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