Saturday, February 24, 2007

Canadian Supreme Court Gets it Right in Detainee Case

The Canadian Supreme Court got it right yesterday in its impressive unanimous vote to strike down a security law allowing the Canadian government to indefinitely detain foreign-born terrorism suspects without the opportunity for review or to view evidence, stating “The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process.”

The disappointing truth is that it is impossible to imagine a similarly overwhelming majority of the U.S. Supreme Court today agreeing on such a bedrock principle of basic justice. The scary thing is we may no longer even have a simple majority - we'll have to wait and see how the Court handles the appeal from the Boumediene v. Bush and Odah v. United States cases, where the DC Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week upheld the Military Commissions Act of 2006 stripping the federal courts of authority to hear habeas corpus petitions from prisoners being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. The Court's decision last summer in the pre-Military Commission Act Hamdan case, ruling in favor of the Gitmo prisoners on statutory grounds, was only 5-3 (really 5-4 because the opinion reversed the Ct. of Appeals decision that had been written by Roberts when he was on the lower court). Who knows what the Court will do now that it must confront statutory support for what was formerly just an executive interpretation....

There was a time when America took the lead among nations in arguing in favor of human rights and individual liberties. But no more. Today all three branches of American government now concur in denying prisoners basic fundamental rights of habeas corpus and the right to see the evidence against them. Hard to believe.

By: Michael Anthony Lawrence