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Supreme Court Won't Hear Appeal From Former Gitmo Detainees

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 14, 2009 12:15 PM

Last Monday, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by four former Guantánamo detainees from a lower court decision dismissing their case. The appellants, all British citizens, had claimed violations of human rights from torture as well as violations of religious rights at the hands of U.S. military officials while they were Guantánamo Bay prisoners. The Court of Appeals dismissed their case, and this decision by the Supreme Court lets that decision stand.

The case against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and ten military commanders was brought by the four men captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantánamo. The suit claims the various forms of torture and harassment as they practiced their religion they suffered amounted to violations of the Alien Tort Statute, the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This is this case's second pass at the Supreme Court. In light of its ruling in Boumediene v. Bush in 2008, confirming that the right of habeas corpus does extend to Guantánamo prisoners, the Court initially sent the case back to the Court of Appeals for further review.

After this second review, the lower court found the former detainees still had no legal basis for their suit, holding that the officials named have immunity from such actions, and the religious rights protections did not apply to the detainees during their time in prison.  

The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. It said the appeals court's decision was correct and that further review of the case was unwarranted.

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