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Thursday, June 12, 2008

In a too-close 5-4 split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Guantánamo detainees can appeal their imprisonment in civilian courts.

Justice Kennedy declared: “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

The decision, left some important questions unanswered. These include “the extent of the showing required of the government” at a habeas corpus hearing in order to justify a prisoner’s continued detention, as Justice Kennedy put it, as well as the handling of classified evidence and the degree of due process to which the detainees are entitled.

Months or years of continued litigation may lie ahead, unless the Bush administration, or the administration that follows it, reverses course and closes the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which now holds 270 detainees. Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court here said the court’s judges would meet in the next few days with lawyers for both sides to decide “how we can approach our task most effectively and efficiently.”
More links and discussion at MeFi, including this look at the realities of Guantánamo six years in:
More than half of the 270 detainees currently at Guantánamo – including many who are slated for release or transfer – are housed in high-security facilities akin to U.S. "supermax" prisons. They spend all but two hours a day in small cells with no natural light or fresh air. Their meals are slipped through a slot in the door, and they are given little more than a single book and the Koran to occupy their time. Even their limited "recreation" time – which is sometimes provided in the middle of the night – generally takes place in single cell cages so that detainees can't physically interact with one another. None of these detainees have been allowed visits by family members, and very few have been able to make phone calls home.

As a result, many detainee lawyers say, their clients are suffering from serious and even dangerous mental health problems. Several have tried to commit suicide, some of them multiple times. Others have reported having visions and hearing voices. Some show strong signs of depression and anxiety disorder.
In other Supreme Court news, our old friend Antonin Scalia continues to embarrass himself. You're a Supreme Court justice, not the substitute host for Sean Hannity's radio show. Have some decorum.