Rasul v. Bush Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

February 2002

Co-Counsel 

Joseph Margulies, lead counsel, John J. Gibbons argued

Client 

David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib, Shafiq Rasul, and Asif Iqbal

Case Description 

In February 2002, not long after the first men were brought to Guantanamo on January 11, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the first cases to challenge the unlawful detentions at the base. At the time, no one knew who the men were, only that the public had been told by the Bush administration that they were “worst of the worst.” The only ones willing to share the cases with us were death penalty attorneys, who were used to representing unpopular clients – no other organization was willing to join us. Together, we filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of two British men, Shafik Rasul and Asif Iqbal, and two Australians, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib.

CCR alleged that it was unlawful to hold our clients indefinitely without a lawful hearing process to determine their status and the legitimacy of their detention. After we had lost in the lower courts, the Supreme Court, over the administration’s opposition, agreed in November, 2003, to hear the case. The Court also agreed to hear a companion case filed on behalf of 12 Kuwaitis being held at Guantanamo, Al Odah v. USA. The Court chose to review the question:

Whether United States courts lack jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

The issue was whether U.S. courts have the jurisdiction to even hear a habeas petition from those imprisoned at Guantánamo. The bulk of the men at Guantánamo had been held incommunicado since being taken into U.S. custody. Despite regular interrogation by U.S. agents, they had not been charged with an offense, notified of any pending charges, made any appearances before either a military or civilian tribunal, been informed of their rights under domestic or international law, or provided counsel.

In a landmark decision, on June 30, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the men did have the right to challenge their detention. From that moment, the base that had been intended as a legal black hole was opened to counsel and, as a result, to the eyes of the world. CCR ensured that every man at Guantanamo had the opportunity to be represented by counsel and organized hundreds of pro bono attorneys from across the country for that purpose. We began to learn that most of the men had done nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, swept up and sold for substantial bounties to U.S. forces. Finally their stories could be told.

Both Congress and the Bush administration would go on to attempt to limit the rights the Court had recognized, which would lead to a second successful case before the Supreme Court, Boumediene v. Bush.

Case Timeline

June 28, 2004

Supreme Court rules in favor of detainees, reversing and remanding cases to District Court

June 28, 2004

Supreme Court rules in favor of detainees, reversing and remanding cases to District Court

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, holds that federal courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and held at Guantánamo Bay.

April 20, 2004

Oral argument takes place before Supreme Court

April 20, 2004

Oral argument takes place before Supreme Court

April 7, 2004

CCR and co-counsel file reply briefs in Rasul and Al Odah

April 7, 2004

CCR and co-counsel file reply briefs in Rasul and Al Odah

April 5, 2004

CCR files two habeas petitions directly with Supreme Court and one with District Court on behalf of seven more detainees in case government releases or designates for military commissions remaining petitioners in Rasul and Al Odah in an effort to thwart review

April 5, 2004

CCR files two habeas petitions directly with Supreme Court and one with District Court on behalf of seven more detainees in case government releases or designates for military commissions remaining petitioners in Rasul and Al Odah in an effort to thwart review

March 9, 2004

Rasul and Iqbal are released from Guantánamo

March 9, 2004

Rasul and Iqbal are released from Guantánamo

March 2004

Amicus briefs are filed in support of government

March 3, 2004

Government files merits brief

March 3, 2004

Government files merits brief

January 14, 2004

CCR and co-counsel file opening briefs with Supreme Court

January 14, 2004

CCR and co-counsel file opening briefs with Supreme Court

November 10, 2003

Supreme Court grants certiorari, over objections of government, and agrees to hear case

November 10, 2003

Supreme Court grants certiorari, over objections of government, and agrees to hear case

October 3, 2003

Government files opposition to petitions

October 3, 2003

Government files opposition to petitions

September 2, 2003

CCR and co-counsel file for writ of certiorari before Supreme Court

September 2, 2003

CCR and co-counsel file for writ of certiorari before Supreme Court

June 2, 2003

D.C. Circuit denies timely requests for reconsideration and rehearing en banc

June 2, 2003

D.C. Circuit denies timely requests for reconsideration and rehearing en banc

April 25, 2003

CCR and co-counsel file a petition for reconsideration and rehearing en banc

April 25, 2003

CCR and co-counsel file a petition for reconsideration and rehearing en banc

March 11, 2003

D.C. Circuit affirms dismissals, holding that petitioners have no enforceable rights and that no U.S. court has jurisdiction to hear their claims 

March 11, 2003

D.C. Circuit affirms dismissals, holding that petitioners have no enforceable rights and that no U.S. court has jurisdiction to hear their claims 

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals ignores the fact that the detainees had not been declared "enemies" of the United States by any lawful international or domestic tribunal. Approving the power of the President to act lawlessly in these matters, the Circuit concludes that the consequence of its interpretation of the law "is that no court in this country has jurisdiction to grant habeas relief, under 28 U.S.C. §2241, to the Guantánamo detainees, even if they have not been adjudicated enemies of the United States.”

December 2, 2002

D.C. Circuit hears argument on all three consolidated cases

December 2, 2002

D.C. Circuit hears argument on all three consolidated cases

September 24, 2002
CCR and co-counsel file opening brief with D.C. Circuit
September 24, 2002
CCR and co-counsel file opening brief with D.C. Circuit

They argue that if U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to review the Executive detentions at Guantánamo, then no court has jurisdiction to review them: that would mean that the U.S. could act in any way it chose without being subject to any laws anywhere in the world. Further, under American constitutional tradition and international law, courts must be able to review the lawfulness of these Executive detentions.

August 8, 2002

Court dismisses Habib, finding habeas petitions not available for non-U.S. citizens detained outside of United States jurisdiction, and all parties appeal

August 8, 2002

Court dismisses Habib, finding habeas petitions not available for non-U.S. citizens detained outside of United States jurisdiction, and all parties appeal

July 30, 2002

District Court Judge Kollar-Kotelly dismisses Rasul and Al Odah for lack of subject matter jurisdiction

July 30, 2002

District Court Judge Kollar-Kotelly dismisses Rasul and Al Odah for lack of subject matter jurisdiction

June 26, 2002

Oral argument takes place in Rasul and Al Odah

June 26, 2002

Oral argument takes place in Rasul and Al Odah

June 10, 2002

Habib files habeas case in D.C. District Court, Habib v. Bush

June 10, 2002

Habib files habeas case in D.C. District Court, Habib v. Bush

May 2002

Mamdouh Habib is sent to Guantánamo

May 2002

Mamdouh Habib is sent to Guantánamo

May 1, 2002

Twelve Kuwaitis file related case, Al Odah v. Bush, in D.C. District Court

May 1, 2002

Twelve Kuwaitis file related case, Al Odah v. Bush, in D.C. District Court

March 18, 2002

Government moves to dismiss petition on lack of jurisdiction

March 18, 2002

Government moves to dismiss petition on lack of jurisdiction

The government also argues that the “detention” is not based upon military orders, but on the President’s common law war powers. The government further claims that the matter is a political question not within the jurisdiction of the courts.
February 19, 2002

CCR files habeas corpus case, Rasul v. Bush, in D.C. District Court on behalf of Hicks, Rasul, and Iqbal

February 19, 2002

CCR files habeas corpus case, Rasul v. Bush, in D.C. District Court on behalf of Hicks, Rasul, and Iqbal

The habeas petition challenges the Presidential Executive Order of November 13, 2001, which authorized indefinite detention without due process of law.
January 2002
Plaintiffs David Hicks, Shafiq Rasul, and Asif Iqbal are among first men sent to Guantánamo
January 2002
Plaintiffs David Hicks, Shafiq Rasul, and Asif Iqbal are among first men sent to Guantánamo