Foreign Policy Blogs

Supreme Court Denies Appeals from Guantanamo Cases, Allows Texas Challenge to Presidential Authority

justice.jpgThe Supreme Court of the United States rejected the appeals of Salim Hamdan, Usamma bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, and Omar Khadr, a Canadian charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan.  The Hamdan case resulted in a landmark ruling that declared unconstitutional the former system to prosecute detainee's captured by the United States in its "war on terror.'  The result of Hamdan was the passage of legislation that established a new process to determine the status of those the US allege are implicated in terrorist acts directed at its national interests. 

The Court, in rejecting the appeals, reinforced the congressionally mandated tribunals enacted after Hamdan.   The new legislation also stripped the highest civilian Court of hearing appeals, relegating them to the military system.  The federal courts have, in essence, stepped aside , for now , regarding violations of the laws of war in the current conflict against terrorism.  The Court sided with the Bush administration, noting that current prosecutorial measures must be exhausted before the high court would hear appeals.  The Courts refusal to hear the appeals augmented the DC Circuit Courts ruling that detainees have "no constitutional rights." 

In similar proceedings, the Supreme Court decided to hear appeals regarding a Texas death penalty case.  Texas wants to exercise the death penalty against Jose Medellin, a Mexican national accused of the rape and murder of two teenage girls in 1994.  Mexico had sued the United States in the International Court of Justice for violations of The Vienna Convention, which allows foreign nationals access to consular officers.  In 2005, Bush agreed with the World Court and ordered Texas to re-evaluate the case, and 50 others.  Though not in acquiescence with international courts, the US agreed with the ruling at The Hague, which noted the violation.  Texas, however, has claimed that the President has over-stepped his authority by intervening in the affairs of Texas courts.

Texas is arguing that President Bush has exceeded his presidential powers by ordering a State court to comply with international law.  On the other hand, in the cases circulating regarding suspected terrorists, the plaintiffs are arguing that the President has exceeded his presidential powers by circumventing international law.  It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the Medellin case will have on Hamdan et al.

SCOTUS blog has outstanding coverage, as usual.
I’ve covered Hamdan etc a great deal under the ‘US cases’ category. outlines Medellin.

Graphic is by Ivo Saliger.



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors