U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, in the first ruling to carry out the Supreme Court’s June decision on detainees’ rights, ordered the federal government to release five Guantanamo Bay detainees “forthwith.” The judge found, however, that the government had justified the continued imprisonment of a sixth detainee, Belkacem ben Sayah.
The judge, in an unusual added comment, suggested to senior government leaders that they forgo an appeal of his ruling on freeing the five prisoners, suggesting that “seven years is enough” in captivity. He argued that the government could pursue whatever legal issues it wished to while defending on appeal his ruling in the case of ben Sayah.
As you might expect, this story has some rightwingers’ panties all twisted:
Getting judges involved in national security matters, what could go wrong?
Back to SCOTUSBLOG:
The six prisoners were captured in Bosnia, where they had been living, although they are all natives of Algeria.
In ruling against the government as to the five detainees, Judge Leon said that the Justice Department and intelligence agencies had relied solely on a classified document, which he found was not persuasive on the government’s claim that the five had planned to travel to Afghanistan to join in hostile actions against the United States and allied forces.
I find it extremely disturbing that the United States government asserts that it has the authority to arrest and imprison Algerian nationals arrested in Bosnia for the alleged crime of planning to travel to Afghanistan to fight our troops. Even more disturbing is the fact that our government wants to do so without providing the defendants with due process of law.
These men have been imprisoned for seven years based on a single classified document. German and Japanese prisoners of war were released shortly after hostilities ceased in WWII (except for those accused of war crimes) but these men have been imprisoned far longer than any POW we ever held, and were probably subjected to “enhanced interrogation.” IIRC, the “detainees” at Gitmo were all supposed to be “the worst of the worst.”
No wonder the Bush adminstration has tried so hard to deprive these people of due process. Everytime these “dangerous terrorists” manage to get a fair tribunal to look at their cases the evidence against them turns out to be vitually non-existent. Under these facts, I don’t see how we could assert legal authority over these men in the first place, even if the charges were true.
Since October 7, 2001, when the current war in Afghanistan began, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantánamo. Of these, approximately 420 have been released without charge, with only one prisoner, David Hicks, being convicted of a crime.