Tag Archives: habeas corpus

My new hero

I don’t say this lightly.  I say this with a joyful heart and tears in my eyes.  Seriously.  This isn’t hyperbole.

Judge Ricardo Urbina, Federal District Court

Judge Ricardo Urbina, Federal District Court

This man you see, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, a Clinton appointee, is my new hero.  He has ordered that a group of 17 Guantanamo detainees be produced before him for release.  This is the first ruling of this kind in nearly seven years of legal wrangling over the rights of detainess at Gitmo. 

All of these men, these detainees, are members of the Uighur Muslim minority from China and literally cannot return to China because they fear for their lives.  They were in Afghanistan as political refugees and were swept into Afghan detention camps in 2001 in error.  There is no other country which will accept them for fear of retribution from China, so they will be released to the care of other Uighur Muslims living in the US.

This case was brought before Judge Urbina under the ruling by the Supreme Court which restored the detainees habeas corpus rights and it comes after the government has admitted that it has no evidence that these men are a threat to the United States.  Judge Urbina challenged the government’s assertions that he has no right to free these detainees and warned against any further delay tactics.  He also made clear that no other agencies (immigration, for instance) should try and arrest the men upon their release.

I am thankful for Judge Urbina’s courage and wisdom and I fervently hope that other Judges follow his lead in future habeas corpus cases brought on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees.  Don’t go crazy:  there are certainly a few at Gitmo who may need to be brought to further justice.  But there are many who should be freed or, at the least, released to their home countries.  Judge Urbina has opened the door to this process and, for this, he is my new hero.

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More on Guantanamo

A few days ago, I wrote on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the right of habeas corpus for Guantanamo Bay detainees.  As a follow up, I’d like to direct you to some reading.

First, check out Tom Lasseter’s article on a McClatchy investigation showing that anywhere from dozens to hundreds of the men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay were done so for no reason … no good reason … at all.  These men were innocent, turned in for bounty or to settle old scores.  And they were systematically abused by us, by American military members.  Now don’t get all righteous on me about our military.  I am married to an American military officer.  But the fact that our military members have done atrocious things cannot be denied.

Next, turn to Michael Tomasky’s piece on John McCain’s reaction to that same Supreme Court decision.  It’s an interesting look at how McCain’s view of the decision is framed within his support of the Military Commissions Act.  One would think that a former torture victim and military prisoner would be a huge proponent of habeas corpus rights for military prisoners.  The anger that McCain showed in reaction to the court’s ruling is, therefore, surprising, until you read this piece.

Finally, read another of Tomasky’s pieces which reiterates my point about the Court’s decision affirming our system of checks and balances.  He looks at the possibilities of an Obama or a McCain presidency in the lights of this and examines the possibilities.  It’s definitely worth a read.

This decision is worth reading for yourself (FindLaw.com) and studying.  It will be viewed one day, I hope, as the first step in reversing the blackness that began to creep into our Democracy after 9/11. 

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The Constitution has finally prevailed

Yesterday, the Constitution won.  In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said that prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to have their cases heard in US courts, granting them the writ of habeas corpus.  Writing for the majority in Boumediene v. Bush, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.”

President Bush was none too happy with the decision, saying, while on a trip in Italy, “First of all it’s a Supreme Court decision. We will abide by the court’s decision. It was a deeply divided court and I strongly agree with those who dissented. The dissent was based upon those serious concerns about U.S. national security. Congress and the administration worked very carefully on … a piece of legislation that set the appropriate procedures in place as to how to deal with the detainees.”  He went on to say that his Administration would study the ruling, ” … with this in mind, to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate so we can safely say to the American people: ‘We’re doing everything we can to protect you.'”

I am not surprised at all that Bush is pissed.  It’s hard to keep your citizens under the blanket of fear when the courts expose the “enemies,” like Omad Khadr, to the light of day.  But it’s a huge victory for America when the Court allows the rest of world to see that our system of checks and balances can, even at the last stop, prevail.  The Constitution was bruised and battered along its way through, being hit hard by both the executive and legislative branches.  It then was dealt near death blows by the courts along its way to the highest court in the land.  But the highest court saved it and proved that our system does, indeed, work.  This was a victory not only for the Constitution, but for the framework of our government detailed therein.

Writing for the opposition and speaking from the bench about his opposition, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the decision “… will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”  I’m not sure how.  These prisoners have been held at Gitmo for years.  Were any of them truly guilty, their fellow combatants would not get the message from this ruling that they could get caught, extradited to the US, have a short, easy confinement, get a fair day in a lenient US court, be set free, and return to the battlefield.  That’s just not the way it works and not the way it will be seen in the world.  The message it does send the world, however, is that we are finally taking our role as human rights leaders seriously.

To read the Opinion and the Dissent for yourself, go here:  FindLaw.com.

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