Federal Judge Grants Afghan Detainees Habeas Corpus

A federal judge ruled today that detainees held in US prisons outside of the United States could seek relief in U S Courts. U.S. District Judge John Bates handed down his ruling in a case brought by prisoners held at Bagram Air Force Base.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge John Bates compared their cases to those of the Guantanamo detainees, who won the right to challenge their confinements in federal court under a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year. Today’s decision is the first time that right has been extended to detainees held by U.S. forces outside Guantanamo.

This ruling puts President Obama in the uncomfortable position of having to further clarify his decision to let stand the Bush administration policy of denying detainees these rights:

“The Justice Department, under President Obama’s administration, had agreed with the position of the Bush administration that the Bagram prisoners were not entitled to question their detention in U.S. civil courts.

On Jan. 22, the court invited the new administration to “refine” the Bush position. But the Justice Department informed Bates that it would “adhere to its previously articulated position” that the men had no right to habeas corpus, a centuries-old legal doctrine that permits people to challenge their imprisonment before judges.”

The president had something of a free pass on the complex challenge of waging asymmetrical warfare since his declaration to close Guantanamo Bay. Although the administration offered no alternative as to where the Guantanamo detainees would be held the president was widely applauded by his base for offering what was obviously a platitude masquerading as policy. Now the president’s decision timeline is closing in and should the most recent ruling be upheld on appeal it’s fair to ask President Obama right now just where the hell these prisoners would be held.

Clarification:

Judge Bates did not grant habeus corpus. Rather, his ruling allows the detainees the right to seek relief.

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