Human rights lawyers filed new appeals Friday on behalf of nine detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, citing this week’s Supreme Court ruling and pressing the government to justify its detention of the terror suspects or let them go.
A federal court was urged to rule that the nine detainees were being unlawfully held at the military prison. They were the first appeals since the Supreme Court’s ruling this week that the prisoners may use U.S. courts to challenge their detentions.
“This is the beginning of trying to enforce precisely what the Supreme Court mandated as a way to obtain justice,” said Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the New York Center for Constitutional Rights. “The first step is that the government has to respond.”
Appeals were filed on behalf of two British citizens, three French citizens, a German Turk, a Jordanian Palestinian refugee, an Iraqi refugee and a Canadian, Fogel said.
More appeals are expected on behalf of other prisoners. About 600 men from more than 40 countries are being held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the fallen Taliban regime of Afghanistan. Most of the detainees have been at the prison for more than 2½ years, with little or no contact with the outside world. Just four have had access to lawyers.
The appeals say the government has exceeded its constitutional authority and asks the court to “declare that the prolonged, indefinite, and restrictive detention of [the detainees] is arbitrary and unlawful.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal organization, represented two Australian detainees in the challenge that led to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling.
The justices said federal courts could hear the cases of Guantanamo Bay detainees but did not describe a process.
On Thursday, the human rights group wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asking access to 53 prisoners held at the naval base.
The lawyers involved have not been able to meet with any detainees in Cuba, but Fogel said they had authorization from prisoners’ families. He said the detainees are:
- British citizens Moazzem Begg, who was captured in Pakistan, and Feroz Abbasi.
- Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen with German residency captured in Pakistan.
- French citizens Mourad Benchallali, Nizar Sassi and Ridouane Khalid, all captured in Pakistan.
- Jamil El-Banna, a Jordanian/Palestinian refugee residing in the United Kingdom, captured in Gambia, and Bisher Al-Rawi, an Iraqi refugee residing in the United Kingdom, captured in Gambia.
- Canadian Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when captured two years ago in Afghanistan.