Monday, April 2, 2007

Justice delayed…

Outrageous and Sad – these are the best words to describe today’s news from the Supreme Court. In February, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Military Commissions Act (MCA), passed and signed in the fall of 2006, effectively stripped Guantánamo’s inmates of any right to habeas corpus, a basic protection in our thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon legal tradition. Detainees filed with the Supreme Court asking the Court to rule on the constitutionality of that law, and to rule expeditiously. Today the Supreme court said…. NOT YET.

The legal battles over the Bush administration’s detention policies in the “war on terror” illustrate the extent to which decades of right-wing judicial appointments by Republican presidents have compromised our courts and our freedoms. We knew with the appointments of Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court that all of these battles would be uphill fights. Our only swing vote in the Supreme Court is the very conservative Judge Kennedy. As I read today’s opinion I can only determine that Justice Stevens is trying hard to take Kennedy under his wing. It is clear Kennedy is not ready yet to slam down the unconstitutional MCA yet and the best we can apparently do is keep him from voting with the ultra right (wrong) Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito., The joint statement from Justices Stevens and Kennedy leave the door open to future review once detainees have exhausted their (unconstitutional) remedies and/or if the government causes any "unreasonable" delay of those remedies, or causes "some other and ongoing injury.” Of course, when it comes to treatment of “enemy combatants,” “unreasonable delays” and ongoing injuries abound. Moreover, the only other recourse allowed under the DTA/MCA is for a challenge of their enemy combatant designation in the D.C. Circuit (need I mention that is the court that keeps finding whatever Bush does to be just fine…)

I am now burdened by the sad task of writing to my clients in Guantánamo and letting them know that America’s legal system, once a model throughout the world, has failed them again.

- H. Candace Gorman

Bisher al-Rawi Back with Family

After being held for four and a half years in GTMO, Bisher al-Rawi has finally been released and is back in the UK. The U.S. has dropped all allegations against him.

Al-Rawi's family is expecting a so sorry Hallmark card from President Bush any day now.

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

New on Huffington Post:

Over the weekend we learned that David Hicks would be sentenced to not twenty years, not seven years BUT NINE MONTHS in the slammer. Candace digested this news on Huffington Post.

Here are some highlights:

First we were told that under the plea deal Hicks would probably get less than the 20 years he was eligible for. Can't accuse them of lying about that one can we? I mean nine months is less than 20 years. The fact that it was shocking that Hicks could be eligible for a 20 year sentence, when the crime that he pled guilty to was not even a crime until six months ago, was not mentioned by those congratulating themselves on the plea.

The following day our benevolent military announced that Hicks would probably be sentenced to less than seven years and that most of the sentence could be carried out in his home country of Australia. Ah yes, less than seven years: nine months is that. Finally, on Friday night, the military finally got around to releasing the actual deal that was made just in time for the Saturday paper that no one reads (except those of us who want to know what the Bushies are trying to bury). Now we know that Hicks' pled guilty in return for a nine month sentence and that the deal was made that very first day, when the plea was announced.

So what did Hicks admit to? Most of his "admission" actually has nothing to do with what he did, but has everything to do with what he promises not to do: Hicks promises not to sue the US; not to talk about the torture he received; not to talk to the press for one year (coincidently not until after the Australian elections) and, he promises that he will never suggest that he pled guilty just to get the hell out of Guantánamo.

More on David Hicks

Writing for the The Justinian, "Australia’s most revered and disturbing law journal," Roger Fitch offers his take on the recent "confession" and other developments in the David Hicks story.

The article is password protected, but here are some juicy bits:

Under a plea agreement, David Hicks will be repatriated to Australia to serve out what remains of a nine-month term (after most of the seven year “sentence” has been reduced by pre-agreement).

Nevertheless, he will be confined in an Australian prison for committing an “offence” for which the Australian government could never have jailed him and which many predict the US Supreme Court will strike down.
On Australian Prime Minister and foe of Barack Obama, John Howard:

Even before the ink had dried on the original draft of David Hicks’ “Offer for a Pre-trial Agreement”, John Howard was looking like a loser in the affair. As Amnesty’s observer, lawyer Jumana Musa noted, the stage-managed “trial” only proved one thing: that the new military commissions were good at inducing guilty pleas.

True enough, the terms of the agreement conveniently prevent Hicks being freed from jail or speaking out before the Australian election later this year. That may not be enough, however, to stop Howard’s shabby treatment of Hicks over the years becoming an issue in your election.

And what’s the political value of a (coerced) conviction without a trial, for a crime that’s not really a crime? What’s the point of a show trial without the show? Stalin would have managed things better.

Strangely enough, John Howard’s philosophy is the same as Stalin’s: no man, no problem. With an election due, David Hicks had to disappear; the PM must think that a jail in Australia will accomplish that.

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

NEWSFLASH: Supreme Court Denies Review in Al Odah and Boumediene

SCOTUS has let us down. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter dissented from the denial.

A synopsis by Eric Freedman:

The Supreme Court on Monday denied review in two new Guantanamo detainee cases. Three Justices dissented, and two others wrote separately about the denial. Had all five of those Justices voted for review, of course, tthe cases would have been granted.

The two who filed a separate "statement," Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony M. Kennedy, said that the Court had passed up review to avoid deciding constitutional issues before the detainees had used their available remedies under federal law. They warned, however, that if the government later is found to have engaged in "unreasonable" delay of those remedies, or caused "some other and ongoing injury," then "alternative means exist for us to consider our jurisdiction" over the detainees' allegations. They added that the Court's denial of review does not amount to an expression of "any opinion" on the merits of the detainee claims.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented from the denial. Breyer and Souter also said they would not only grant review, but expedite it.

The Court did not grant review of any new cases.

Also, from the AP wire.

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados