At a Glance
A panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied Ali's appeal on May 15, 2020. Ali asked the panel and the full Court to reconsider the decision in a rehearing petition filed on July 13, 2020; the Court denied that motion on July 29, 2020. Ali filed a petition for review by the Supreme Court in December, later asking the Court to hold the petition pending the outcome of a similar appeal in the D.C. Circuit, but the Supreme Court declined to review the case on May 17, 2021.
H. Candace Gorman, Law Office of H. Candace Gorman
Ali v. Trump is a federal habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of Abdul Razak Ali (also known as Saeed Bakhouch), an Algerian citizen detained without charge at Guantánamo Bay since 2002. One of the main government justifications for his continued detention is the contested allegation that he was staying in the same guest house in Pakistan as Abu Zubaydah—a man who was mistakenly regarded by the Bush administration as a senior figure in al-Qaeda, and who is also currently detained without charge at Guantanamo. Abu Zubyadah arrived a few days before the house was raided in March 2002. Ali maintains that he did not know anyone else staying at the house he was captured in, that during his time there he never saw anything illegal take place, and that he never had military training.
Ali is one of 11 petitioners who collectively filed the first major challenge to the Trump's administration's Guantánamo policies in January 2018 in federal court in Washington, D.C. This filing argued that the petitioners' perpetual detentions violate the Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and are undergirded by the Trump's executive hubris and anti-Muslim animus. The Center for Constitutional Rights joined co-counsel to represent Ali in 2018, and argued his motion in March 2018.
Ali v. Trump raises the fundamental question as to whether the Due Process Clause of the Constitution applies at Guantánamo. The clause mandates that the government must use fair procedures—"due process"—if it deprives a person of life, liberty, or property. If it applies at Guantánamo, many of the legal rules currently governing how the individual cases are decided (permitting, for example, indefinite detention based on an anonymous source's claim the detainee was seen in a house with suspect individuals) would be overturned. Applying the Due Process Clause would not only prohibit detaining men based on weak, untestable evidence, but also should set an upper time limit on detention, such as this, without criminal charge.
In August 2018, the district court judge denied Ali's motion for relief, stating that he felt constrained by Court of Appeals decisions implying that the Due Process Clause did not apply at Guantánamo. Ali appealed, and a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard the case on December 11, 2019. On May 15, 2020, the panel unanimously rejected Ali's appeal. Ali filed a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc on July 13, 2020; the court denied it on July 29, and Ali filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the case on December 28, 2020. After three extensions, the Biden administration filed an opposition on April 12th making the same arguments against review that the Justice Department had made under President Trump. After the D.C. Circuit agreed to hear the same issue en banc (before all the judges of the court) in another case, Al Hela v. Biden, Ali asked the Supreme Court to hold his petition pending the outcome of that case, but the Court denied certiorari on May 17, 2021, with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh recusing themselves (presumably due to prior involvement with Guantanamo issues while in government (DOJ and White House Counsel, respectively), or, in Kavanaugh's case, his role as a D.C. Circuit judge in a prior appeal in the same case).