The administration of US President George W. Bush was to defend its indefinite detentions of foreign terror suspects, some for almost six years, at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before the US Supreme Court yesterday.
At issue is whether the right to contest detention in US civilian courts, promised in the US Constitution, extends to the 305 men being held at Guantanamo as "enemy combatants."
The court heard arguments yesterday in a highly anticipated case. It is the third time since 2004 that the Supreme Court has examined the administration's controversial detention program.
The justices have ruled against the administration in the two earlier cases.
Lawyers for the foreign detainees argue that the courts must step in to rein in the White House and Congress, which changed the law to keep the detainee cases out of US courts after earlier Supreme Court rulings. Last year's Military Commissions Act, strips federal courts of their ability to hear detainee cases.
Seth Waxman, the top Supreme Court lawyer in former president Bill Clinton's administration, is representing the detainees. "After six years of imprisonment without meaningful review, it is time for a court to decide the legality" of their confinement, Waxman said.
Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the administration, said foreigners captured and held outside the US "have no constitutional rights to petition our courts for a writ of habeas corpus," which is a judicial determination of the legality of detention.
The US has no plans to put most of those held at Guantanamo on trial. Just three detainees face charges under the Military Commissions Act.
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