When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Boumediene v. Bush in June 2008-the latest of several cases regarding the rights of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay-it was hailed by progressive commentators and human rights advocates as a landmark in rights jurisprudence. Holding that the Guantdnamo prisoners possess a constitutional right to challenge the legality of their detention through the writ of habeas corpus, Justice Kennedy reached for appropriately lofty language, stating, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled, and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of the law." Indeed, the extension of a constitutional provision to noncitizen wartime prisoners held outside the United States was breathtaking. This was especially so in the face of six years of government insistence that the prisoners at Guantdnamo had no rights whatsoever, and could be held indefinitely, even for life, without charge or meaningful opportunity to contest their treatment or detention. The decision was a rebuke to the Executive's claims of outsized authority, and, the Court told us, a reassertion of the supremacy of law. It was a rights moment. Or so it seemed.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Ahmad, Muneer I., "Resisting Guantanamo: Rights at the Brink of Dehumanization" (2009). Faculty Scholarship Series. 5255.