Supremes: No Tribunals for Military Detainees

In a sharp rebuke of President Bush, the Supreme Court today said President Bush may not conduct military tribunals for detainees at the US Naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba. 

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized under U.S. law or the Geneva Conventions. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion in the case, called Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recused himself from the case.

This was the most anticipated case of the session, with broad implications about individual rights and the separation of powers.  Writing at SCOTUSblog, Heather Lloyd suggests the the ruling has broader implications about how the US must treat detainees:

More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda....  This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

Further, in a concurring opinion, Justice Breyer wrote that Bush overstepped the authority Congress granted when it authorized the Iraq war:

The Court's conclusion, Breyer said, "ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check.'...Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative auhority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress tgo seek the authority he believes necessary." The Breyer opinion included a mini-lecture on the virtue of presidential consultation with Congress, at least "where, as here, no emergency prevents" such consultation. "The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same."


  • East Coast Crazy (unverified)

    Thank God... right? I am so tired of bush and his administration being wrong about everything they do. I no longer get any sense of vindication or of hope that things are changing. I am just so tired of people who are so wrong having so much power. more importantly i am deeply disturbed that our system has let things get this far out of hand and just reminds me of an unfortunate truth about humanity and law. "A law is only as Just as those who enforce it and a Government is only as good as the people running it."

  • Albert (unverified)

    To East Coast Crazy: which office will you be running for? Seriously, if we really want to change things, it probably makes sense to start running for political office. I started by becoming the head of my neighborhood association. next stop. the US Senate :)

  • (Show?)

    This ruling will not have an impact until the Democrats win the House or Senate, or the Republicans start to exercise some oversight. Based on his past record, Bush will simply ignore the court decision, claim he never tortures, and attack those who support the court (mostly Republican appointees)as soft on terror.

    It is clear from the attacks on the NYT and pushing the flag ammendment this week that the whole Republican campaign will be attacking the Democrats as soft on terror and as enemies of the country regardless of the facts. We need to attack back and not let up. They are destroying our military, weakening our country, and violating our constitution. Who says? a Republican Supreme Court.

  • jami (unverified)

    bush said in a press conference this morning, essentially, that the republicans have his back on violating the geneva convention. he said he'd ask the republican congress to write him up a li'l law that says he can do whatever he wants to whomever he chooses.

    let's watch the republican congress co-operate as usual, and watch the american electorate yawn and flip on american idol as their freedom slips away.

  • (Show?)

    The GOP Congress may cooperate--but it may not. Congress's feathers have been a little ruffled by Bush's various power grabs, and they may be somewhat reluctant to sign away vast swaths of constitutional authority to him (and perhaps, Hillary Clinton).

  • Muzzled Citizen (unverified)

    While Congress and the press are asleep at the wheel regarding Bush's problems with the Constitution, at least the electorate is not. Bush's approval poll numbers are in the mid 30s and about half of Americans would support a Bush impeachment. A news search on Google shows that there is a waiting tidal wave and a grass roots effort on the local level all over the country to force an impeachment even if Congress refuses to do it's job.

    One example:

  • jami (unverified)

    mm-hm. republicans are "scurrying" to help bush keep his special courts for anyone he declares an enemy combatant.

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