US churches launch challenge over Guantanamo Bay


 In the week human rights campaigners lobbied the British parliament over the plight of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, the US National Council of Churches (NCC) and 15 other religious and human rights organizations, filed a brief in the US Supreme Court - seeking for them to be allowed due process before the law. Despite widespread international protest, the United States has been holding 660 foreign nationals from more than 40 different countries at Guantanamo since early 2002. Some are believed to be as young as 13. The detainees have not been afforded a hearing to determine their participation in any conflict, or their connection to any crime. "What we are saying is that there is no land without law. The law of the United States requires due process, and so does international law," said Dr Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC's Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace, New York. "The NCC, as a religious organisation, is interested from a moral standpoint in the right to due process, which is being denied the detainees in Guantanamo." The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights filed the brief on behalf of the broad coalition of domestic and international organizations. It will test the assertion that the approximately 660 foreign nationals held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have no means of challenging the legality of their detention in court. "These cases will mark the Supreme Court's most important decision in a generation regarding the rights of non-citizens before U.S. courts," said Deborah Pearlstein, Director of the Lawyers Committee's US Law and Security Program. "The Court should make clear that the Guantanamo prisoners have some means for challenging the legality of their detention by the United States." At issue before the Supreme Court is an expansive decision by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which held that foreign nationals detained at Guantanamo may not petition U.S. courts for review of their detention-because Guantanamo is not formally US "sovereign" territory. This ruling came despite the fact that US courts are the only courts to which detainees can assert their innocence. The US government exercises "complete jurisdiction and control" over Guantanamo under a perpetual lease signed by Cuba and the United States in 1903. The brief warns that the DC Circuit's decision places the United States in conflict with other democracies, including Israel and the United Kingdom, which have long rejected the notion that governments can sidestep judicial review by holding individuals outside their sovereign territory. It also places the United States in violation of international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States formally adopted in 1992. "The National Council of Churches has a long tradition of advocating for civil liberties and human rights," said Dr Kireopoulos. "In essence, in this case, we are urging our country, as a citizen of the world, to uphold the rights mandated by our international obligations - indeed, by our own Constitution." Source: Ekklesia/ICN

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