News Release

Court rejects indefinite detentions; detainees must have access to courts, counsel

Cases also have implications for proposed Guantanamo administrative review procedures 

Washington, DC (June 28, 2004) – In light of today’s Supreme Court decisions in Rasul v. Bush, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld v. Padilla, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will redouble its efforts to obtain counsel and access to federal courts for civilian detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, and U.S. Naval Brig, Charleston, S.C. NACDL will also continue to provide amicus curiae support for detainees seeking petitions for their release under the federal habeas corpus statutes.

“The ancient right to be held only under the rule of law and to petition the court for a writ of habeas corpus was already part of our common law heritage at the time of our independence. The Founders considered it so fundamental as to specifically write it into our Constitution,” NACDL President E.E. (Bo) Edwards said. “As critical as detention may be for those who pose an immediate threat to national security during a conflict, history and common sense teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means of oppression and abuse of those who present no threat at all.

“For over two years, the Bush Administration have tried to have it their way, not the Constitutional way. These decisions are a stern rebuke. The Executive Branch may not be the sole arbiter of who is detained and for how long. Detainees must have access to counsel and the courts,” Edwards said.

President-Elect Barry Scheck, who met with Navy Secretary Gordon England June 23 to discuss the draft procedures for review of individual detainees, predicted that the Defense Department will go back to the drawing board. “The Secretary of the Navy’s administrative review procedures are dead in the water. The secretary can no longer be the final judge of who deserves repatriation and who must remain imprisoned year after year. Since the Court recognized today that all military detainees in U.S. territories, citizen and non-citizen alike, have the right to counsel, the Navy’s draft administrative review procedures, which do not allow legal counsel or outside review, are directly at odds with today’s decisions and must be completely revised to comply with the Court’s orders. Whatever the final procedures, any adverse determinations will be subject to review in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

“Another major effect of today’s decisions will be to bring instances of abusive interrogation to light in a credible, neutral forum. The Court also reaffirmed the right of citizens and aliens alike to be free from abuse, even when lawfully detained. Prisoners and former prisoners will now begin to have some recourse for injuries sustained during detention and interrogations,” Scheck added. 

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.