Lawyers representing some of the more than 500 detainees being held without charge by the U.S. military in the war on terror were in court in Washington Wednesday arguing that the government continues to hold their clients without justification.
It was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, that people jailed without charge in the war on terror have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in civilian court, that prompted this session before a federal judge.
At the court hearing were 12 attorneys who are representing more than 60 detainees being held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, Bay Cuba. Among them was Brent Mickum, who represents three enemy combatants taken into custody in the West African nation of Gambia and now being held at Guantanamo.
"My clients again were arrested in Africa on a business trip and have been jailed for two years," he said. "I mean there just is no way legally that they can be enemy combatants and that's an issue that hasn't even been addressed yet."
Attorneys for the detainees argue the government is dragging out the process and ignoring the Supreme Court's June ruling by failing to fully explain the continued detentions. A lawyer representing the Justice Department promised to provide the court with facts justifying the detentions by next week. Dozens of legal petitions have been filed on behalf of Guantanamo detainees, including some who have been held for nearly three years. All are accused of supporting al-Qaida or the Taleban. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the Pentagon is conducting a review to determine whether detainees have been properly classified as enemy combatants and whether they still constitute a threat to the United States.
But attorney Tom Wilner, who represents 12 Kuwaiti detainees, accuses the Bush administration of continuing to ignore the opinion of the nation's highest court.
"They're just repeating the same arguments they made for two and a half years that the Supreme Court rejected," he added. "The judge said we need to respond to those by November 5. That means we'll respond by November 5. They'll take more time to reply and it will be more time wasted while people are rotting in jail with no reason given by the government. It is the most un-American thing that has ever happened, I think."
Despite continuing legal challenges, the United States plans to begin the first military tribunal since WWII in December, when it brings war crimes charges against a Yemeni detainee accused of being Osama bin Laden's driver.