Language Switcher

US Supreme Court: First Step in Taking Guantánamo Bay Detainees Out of Legal Blackhole

The US Supreme Court ruled on 28 June that non-US citizens held off-shore at Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus. In the Rasul case, the Supreme Court rejected the Government’s argument that foreigners who are not held on US soil could be denied access to US courts. Five of the nine judges decided that because the US exercises “complete jurisdiction and control” over Guantánamo Bay naval base under a long term lease with Cuba, everyone held there, whether a US-citizen or not, has a right to habeas corpus. Detainees at Guantánamo Bay are now expected to begin challenging the legality of their detention in US courts and the first writs have already been filed. In the Hamdi case, the Court held that whatever the nature of the detention, the writ of habeas corpus remains available to every individual detained in the US as long as it is not suspended by an act of Congress. Mr. Hamdi, a US citizen captured in Afghanistan and classified as an “enemy combatant”, could not be held indefinitely without charge and with no right to challenge his detention. The majority of the Supreme Court, however, accepted in principle the possibility under US law to seize and detain “enemy combatants”.

Judgment (Rasul) Judgment (Hamdi) ICJ Statement