The US Supreme Court ruling that struck down as illegal the military tribunal system installed to try prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility met with approval in European editorials.
In a 5-3 vote, the high court warned the US administration had no “blank check” to decide how to try terror suspects, as it reversed an appeals court ruling on a tribunal for Osama bin Laden’s former driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan.
The Cuba-based facility currently holds some 460 inmates — mostly without charge — whom the US suspects of links to al-Qaeda or the Taleban. The Court’s ruling, however, does not address maintaining the prison itself.
“Guantanamo damaged the American government,” London’s Daily Telegraph claimed. “Washington should close down the US prisoner facility. Of course the Bush administration sees the Supreme Court’s decision on military tribunals at Guantanamo as a blow against them in their fight against terrorism. But the court’s decision paves the way for closing down a prison facility that has caused Washington severe damage in the area of diplomacy. Now that the military tribunals have been deemed a violation of the Geneva Convention and also a violation of the US code of military justice, it no longer makes sense to hold terrorist suspects in legal limbo on the eastern end of Cuba.”
Britain’s The Guardian went a step further to remark that the Court’s decision was “a welcome reinforcement of democracy and legal principles against a president who so often disregards them. In the US, and to a different degree in Great Britain, politicians were presumptuous in the way they insisted that terrorism justified diverging from the normal legal course of action. We should be grateful to the judges that they were prepared to demand from politicians that they reconsider that position,” the paper noted.
Italy’s Corriere della Sera agreed, observing that the court’s decision marks “a victory for the America based on the freedom of rights of every individual and the distribution of power. It was also a defeat for all of those who insisted that, in the fight against terrorism, the president should have the power to supersede those basic rights.”
Taking a look to the future, Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung reflected that the Court’s decision was “not only a tough defeat for George W. Bush, but it also marks a turn in the fight over the US’s legal handling of the so-called ‘enemy combatants.’ International law is experiencing a resurgence now in Washington. What the Supreme Court’s complex ruling means on a practical level for handling the prisoners in Guantanamo remains to be seen. A mechanism for trying them still does not exist. But hope is growing that the shameful policies of the American government in treating the prisoners will move more toward being in accordance with the law,” the paper concluded.
“Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is a magic moment for the American legal system,” Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger observed. “The ruling should be commended because it brings the United States closer to the international community from which Bush had increasingly tried to distance his nation. By the court deciding that the planned military tribunals for the Guantanamo prisoners were unlawful, not only did the judges reprimand the president — with their clever decision, the judges also helped to improve the image of the United States.”