Summer 2004

Supreme Court Upholds Due Process Rights of Suspected Terrorists

In landmark decisions addressing the proper roles of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches in dealing with suspected terrorists held in U.S. custody, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28 ruled that all such detainees, whether American or foreign nationals and regardless of where they are captured or detained, are entitled to challenge their detentions in court.

In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (in which the ABA filed a Section-sponsored amicus curiae brief on behalf of petitioner), the Court held that due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker. In Rasul v. Bush, it held that U.S. courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Bush Administration had argued that unilateral designation and detention of suspected terrorists as "enemy combatants" by the President was consistent with authority granted the executive by a joint resolution of Congress authorizing "all necessary and appropriate use of force" in combating terrorism and therefore not subject to review by the courts.

In a related case, the Court dismissed Rumsfeld v. Padilla on procedural grounds, without addressing the merits of the case ( see Legislative Update ).

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