USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global

January 20, 2010

USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global

Document - USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global ‘war’

USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global ‘war’

Pyrrhic court victories for administration as Guantánamo detentions enter ninth year and deadline for closure missed



20 January 2010

AI Index: AMR 51/006/2010


As detentions in the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay enter their ninth year, and the 22 January 2010 deadline for the detention facility’s closure ordered by President Barack Obama approaches only to be missed, the administration has registered “wins” in two recent court decisions on the detentions. They are Pyrrhic victories for the authorities, however, coming at a high cost to human rights principles and ensuring that Guantánamo will remain synonymous with injustice well into the second year of the Obama administration.


Both decisions – one from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (DC) Circuit on 5 January and the other from the DC District Court on 6 January – relate to the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bushin June 2008 that the detainees held at Guantánamo had the right to a “prompt” habeas corpus hearing to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Developing the precise contours of the habeas corpus proceedings was left to the District Court to formulate, leading to the protracted delays that have been the hallmark of the post-Boumedienehabeas corpus litigation.1As Senior District Court Judge Thomas Hogan noted on 14 December 2009 during a hearing in the case of Musa’ab Omar Al Madhwani, a Yemeni man who has been held without charge in Guantánamo since late 2002, it is “an unfair process for the detainees in the sense that the law moves at a glacier pace”.


It was Judge Hogan who took on the role of coordinating the scores of habeas corpus petitions pending in the DC District Court on behalf of Guantánamo detainees after the Boumedieneruling. Eighteen months later, on 6 January 2010, in the case of Musa’ab Al Madhwani, he ruled that the government could lawfully continue to hold the detainee without charge. Judge Hogan nevertheless made known his disquiet about Musa’ab Al Madhwani’s ill-treatment in custody and said that he could not see why the detainee should not be released.