Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (amicus) Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 


Case Description 

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld is a case that challenged the arrest and denial of due process to U.S. citizen Yaser Esam Hamdi before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Center for Constitutional Rights’ (CCR) amicus brief challenged the government's position that a United States citizen, detained within the United States, might be denied all the protections of the Constitution and Geneva Conventions if the executive designates him an “enemy combatant.” CCR's brief also contested the Justice department's argument that its production of an administration official’s affidavit in support of the never-defined “enemy combatant” designation was conclusive and not subject to further judicial review.

Yaser Esam Hamdi, 23 years old, was held for nearly three years on legal grounds that the Attorney General never disclosed. Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan and taken to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp first, but moved to a naval base in Virginia after officials decided there was no evidence that he had ever renounced his U.S. citizenship.  While the government tacitly acknowledged that it would have been illegal to detain a U.S. citizen at Guantánamo, he continued to be deprived of the right to be brought before a court to learn of the charges against him, or to meet with his attorney, court-appointed federal defender Frank Dunham.

This case was heard before the Supreme Court on April 28, 2004, with eight justices agreeing that Hamdi had been denied due process and should receive a meaningful opportunity to contest the facts allegedly underlying his designation as an “enemy combatant.”

In February 2004, shortly after the Supreme Court agreed to review the case, Hamdi was finally allowed to see his lawyer, while military officials recorded the meeting and did not allow questions about Hamdi's prison conditions. Several months after the Court's decision, Hamdi was to be released after reportedly agreeing to renounce his U.S. citizenship. Incidentally, CCR's amicus brief itself shows (at footnote 53) why any “agreement” to renounce citizenship in such circumstances would be unenforceable.

According to news reports, Hamdi's release was then delayed by the opposition of the Saudi government to some of the restrictions in his release agreement, which they called “unenforceable”—in particular, the agreement that he not be allowed to travel outside of Saudi Arabia for five years.