Detainees Ask Supreme Court To Guarantee Legal Rights

Monday, March 5th 2007, 11:07 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees held more than five years without charges asked the Supreme Court Monday to step in a third time to guarantee that they can challenge their confinement in U.S. courts.

The detainees want the justices to hear their case and issue a decision before the court ends its term in early summer.

``Not only are these questions of paramount legal importance, but the extreme and worsening plight of the Guantanamo detainees make them questions of great humanitarian urgency as well,'' lawyers for the detainees wrote in court papers urging the justices to decide the case.

The court has twice ruled that foreigners imprisoned at the U.S. naval base in Cuba can pursue their cases in American courts, rejecting Bush administration arguments.

The latest Supreme Court appeal follows a federal appeals court ruling last month that limited detainees' legal rights. The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a key provision of the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a Defense Department system to prosecute terrorism suspects. Now, detainees must prove to three-officer military panels that they don't pose a terror threat.

Separately, the justices said they would not grant quick review in the cases of two other Guantanamo detainees who have been designated by the Pentagon to face criminal charges in front of a military tribunal.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen and Omar Khadr, a Canadian, wanted a high court ruling before their military trials take place, possibly as early as this summer.