In a victory for President Bush, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by suspected terrorists challenging their imprisonment at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
At issue are the rights of the prisoners to contest their imprisonment and the rules set up to try them as war criminals. About 400 detainees are being held at the facility, including admitted September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 13 other suspected top al Qaeda members.
The justices ruled 6-3 to deny appeals from two groups of prisoners. Preliminary hearings before military commissions at Guantanamo have already begun for a few detainees.
At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino told The Associated Press that, “on first glance, we’re very pleased with the decision.”
Washington lawyer Tom Wilner, who has represented Guantanamo detainees since May 2002, told AP that the ruling is “a perfect example of ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ All these people ever wanted was a fair hearing.”
But the ruling may be only a temporary set back for the plaintiffs. In a brief order written by Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy, the court suggested the detainees could appeal once their tribunals or preliminary hearings have been completed.
“Despite the obvious importance of the issues raised in these cases, we are persuaded that traditional rules governing our decision of constitutional questions … and our practice of requiring the exhaustion of available remedies as a precondition to accepting jurisdiction over applications for the writ of habeas corpus … make it appropriate to deny these petitions at this time.”