Supremes Direct Appeals Court to Reconsider Torture Case

by Andrew C. McCarthy

From AFP this afternoon:

The US Supreme Court on Monday revived a lawsuit by four former British detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, ordering a lower court to reconsider their claims of torture and religious bias.

The justices ordered a Washington DC appeals court to review its January 2008 ruling quashing the lawsuit against former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 senior US military officers.

The high court said the case should be reconsidered in light of its June 12 ruling that prisoners held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts.

In their suit, the Britons claimed they were protected against torture by a US constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. They also argued that their rights to practice their religion under the US Religious Freedom Restoration Act were violated at Guantanamo.

ME:  This is a very bad development.  Even if you accept the premise that detainee treatment policy needs to be reworked, it does not follow that we want the courts to do the reworking — much less do so in the context of an action for civil damages in our courts by our enemies.  Moreover, the Supreme Court’s June 12 ruling in Boumediene held strictly that detainees were entitled to judicial review of the military’s determination of their status as enemy combatants; neither it nor the Court’s 2006 Hamdan decision (giving the detainees at least some rights under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions) held that the detainees had a right to bring a suit in federal court against the government officials responsible for prosecuting against them a war that was approved overwhelmingly by Congress and is supported overwhelmingly by the American people.

ScotusBlog has more, here.  Of note is this:

The Justices’ action has at least two immediate effects: it will allow the new administration of President-elect Barack Obama to take a position on the years-long controversy over torture, and it raises the prospect that detainees might gain some rights other than the basic right — recognized in Boumediene — to go to court to challenge their long-term captivity.

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