U.S. court scolds Bush over detainees at base

`Serious concerns under international law,’ judge rules
President criticized over detention of U.S. `dirty bomb’ suspect

SAN FRANCISCO—In a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration, a U.S. appeals court ruled the United States cannot imprison “enemy combatants” captured in Afghanistan indefinitely in Guantanamo, Cuba, and deny them access to lawyers.

In a strongly worded 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the indefinite imprisonment at the naval base is inconsistent with U.S. law and raises serious concerns under international law.

“The government’s position is inconsistent with fundamental tenets of American jurisprudence and raises most serious concerns under international law,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the decision.

“We simply cannot accept the government’s position that the Executive Branch possesses the unchecked authority to imprison indefinitely any persons, foreign citizens included, on territory under the sole jurisdiction and control of the United States, without permitting such prisoners recourse of any kind to any judicial forum, or even access (to) counsel.”

The San Francisco-based court’s ruling said the United States had kept more than 600 people captive for nearly two years at Guantanamo Bay following the undeclared war against the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.

“For almost two years, the United States has subjected over six hundred of these captives to indefinite detention, yet has failed to afford them any means to challenge their confinement, to object to the failure to recognize them as prisoners of war, to consult with legal counsel, or even to advance claims of mistaken capture or identity,” it said.

The decision came on the same day that a federal appeals court panel ruled that Bush does not have the power to detain a U.S. citizen who was seized on American soil as an enemy combatant and to deny him a lawyer.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, in a 2-1 ruling, rejected the administration’s treatment of Jose Padilla, who is accused of plotting to set off a radioactive “dirty bomb.”

Padilla, a convert to Islam, was arrested last year at O’Hare International Airport near Chicago on his return from Pakistan after extensive travel in the Middle East.

Attorney-General John Ashcroft drew worldwide attention soon after when he said the government believed that Padilla, who has a long criminal record as a gang member in Chicago, had been planning to explode a bomb that would use conventional explosives to disperse radioactive particles over a wide area.

Subsequently designated an “enemy combatant” by the government, Padilla was held briefly in New York before being sent to a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., where he has been denied access to a lawyer and held incommunicado. The 2nd Circuit panel said that treatment was wrong, although it found that the government had ample reason to charge Padilla.

Said Vienna Colucci, of Amnesty International USA: “Today’s court decision should serve as a further reminder to the Bush administration that the practice of indefinite detention without charge or trial is wrong and should be repudiated at home as it is abroad.”

On Nov. 30, Abdurahman Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was released from Guantanamo Bay military prison by U.S. officials after spending two years in captivity, flew back to Toronto protesting his innocence.

Khadr, 20, had been held by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Cuba since November, 2001. His brother Omar remains in Guantanamo.

Meanwhile yesterday, the Pentagon revealed that a Yemeni man in Guantanamo Bay had been provided with a military lawyer, the second at the base to receive defence counsel.

With files from The New York Times

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Dec. 19, 2003
Adam Tanner

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday December 19, 2003.
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