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Senator Specter Submits Brief Asking Supreme Court to Hear Guantanamo Cases that Challenge the Military Commissions Act

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With the Supreme Court due to decide whether it will take up once more the case of the Guantánamo detainees and their right to habeas corpus, Senator Arlen Specter on March 22, 2007 submitted an amicus brief to the Court in support of the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel's petition for a writ of certiorari that asks the Court to hear the case this spring.

In his brief, Senator Specter writes, "Congress has struggled with the important constitutional questions presented in these cases. The arguments have been aired and re-aired. The time is ripe for this Court to address the constitutional infirmity of the MCA's attempt to curtail the right of habeas corpus. Habeas must be restored to ensure that the rule of law prevails at Guantánamo."

The Military Commissions Act (MCA), which was signed into law by President Bush on October 17, 2006, is the second attempt by the Bush administration to strip detainees of their statutory right of access to the courts through habeas corpus, a right that the Supreme Court affirmed both in CCR's landmark case Rasul v. Bush in 2004 and in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in 2006. The act also allows for evidence obtained through torture - a violation of the Geneva Conventions - and greatly widens the scope of who the president can label an "enemy combatant."

Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, said, "We are pleased that Senator Specter has joined us in asking the Court to reaffirm the right of the detainees to challenge their detention in a court of law. This will be the third time the Court rules on this issue while our clients have languished for more than five years without a chance to prove their innocence or even, in some cases, have access to an attorney. It is time to return to the rule of law on which our country was founded."

The Senator did not discount further efforts by Congress to resolve the issue but argued that the Court has a critical role to play, both in establishing what the Constitution requires and in giving the detainees the opportunity to argue the merits of their cases. He went on to add that the debate in Congress is ultimately not helping: "While this exchange of ideas is surely healthy and appropriate, the conversation has begun to generate diminishing returns. Meanwhile, the detainees wait, and uncertainty surrounds a fundamental constitutional principle. If the Court declines to resolve these important issues in this term, the detainees could face more than another full year in legal limbo."

The Center for Constitutional Rights represents many of the detainees at Guantánamo and coordinates the work of nearly 500 pro bono attorneys.

 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.