Washington: US Supreme Court agreed to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees can use federal courts to challenge their confinement, reversing an April 2007 decision not to hear arguments on the issue.
The unusual turnabout was announced without comment from justices who had twice before issued rulings critical of the way the Bush administration was handling detainees. Arguments are expected in the fall.
Meanwhile on 29 June, Democrats in the House of Representatives said they want to cut President George W. Bush’s budget for the prison in half, beating the administration to the punch in shutting down the facility for terror detainees.
There was no indication why the justices changed course from three months ago, but lawyers for the prisoners pointed to intervening events as having changed the complexion of the long-running controversy.
A week ago, lawyers for the detainees filed a statement with the Supreme Court from a military officer who alleged US military panels that classified detainees as enemy combatants for the past four years relied on vague and incomplete intelligence.
Under a law the Bush administration pushed through Congress last year, designating detainees as enemy combatants strips them of any right to use the federal courts to challenge the legality of their detention.
Detainees challenged the law, and their appeal reached the Supreme Court earlier this year. On 2 April, the court turned down the detainees’ request to be heard.
At the time, Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy pointed to the “obvious importance” of the cases, but said it would be premature to intervene.
Currently, 375 detainees are held at Guantanamo Bay.
Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that “we did not think that court review at this time was necessary, but we are confident in our legal position.”
The operation of Guantanamo Bay has brought global criticism of the Bush administration and condemnation from Democrats in Congress.