Monday, June 28, 2004

The Supremes Say

A very important day for democracy and the rule of law, I'd say. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that there indeed are limits to what this administration can do to the detainees, whether American citizens or not:

In two crucial decisions today on the scope of presidential wartime powers, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's claim that it can hold suspected terrorists or "enemy combatants" on American soil without giving them a day in court.
The court said detainees, whether American citizens or not, retain their rights, at least to a legal hearing, even if they are held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Guantanamo Bay is under U.S. control and thus appropriately within the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, the high court ruled.
The president's constitutional powers, even when supported by Congress in wartime, do not include the authority to close the doors to an independent review of the legality of locking people up, the justices said.
"We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in Hamdi et al v. Rumsfeld.

The two cases that were decided today are Hamdi et al. vs. Rumsfeld and Rasul et al. vs. Bush (don't you just love those terms?). The Hamdi case concerns the rights of American citizens and the Rasul case those of foreigners who have been detained as enemy combatants and are now held in a location under U.S. control. In both cases the Court argued that the detainees must have at least the right to some kind of legal hearing. As expected, Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas dissented on the decision concerning foreigners' rights to a legal hearing.

These decisions are wonderful, and made me skip and jump from joy. Which is really quite sad, as their contents are what any sane person would expect from a democratic country with an evolved legal system and values. So far have we strayed from such an ideal, I guess, that I fully expected something less from the Supremes. I'm glad I was proved wrong, for once.