Nearly four years ago, in the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision Boumediene v Bush, Guantánamo Bay prisoners were finally given right of access to US courts to challenge the lawfulness of their detentions under the ancient right of habeas corpus.
What followed was years of the DC circuit court of appeals biting away at that right.
Now, in a single move, instead of responding to the lower court’s obliteration of the right, the Supreme Court has abdicated its role by denying each of seven requests made to the Court to clarify the prisoners’ rights.
Absurdly, not one of the nine Justices saw it fit to explain the reasoning behind the refusals – a complete slap in the face to the 169 men who remain at Guantánamo, especially the 87 who are stuck there despite being cleared for release.
In short, this decision means that effective habeas corpus challenges for Guantánamo prisoners are no longer possible. And the effect of this for Reprieve’s 15 clients, as well as the other men still held at Guantánamo, is bleak. Those men, who have never been accused of committing any crimes and never will be, are forced after ten years of incarceration to wait further still.
But for what? The US justice system has shown itself to be little concerned with justice and mostly content with the US government continuing to detain these men - none of whom have ever been convicted in a court of law - indefinitely on evidence that can not be meaningfully challenged in a US court.