Court: no review of enemy combatant designation

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Posted on Friday, 01.09.09
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court said Friday it would not review the "enemy combatant" designation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Three detainees had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review a military tribunal's decision to classify them as enemy combatants. But a three-judge panel said Congress did not intend for detainees to be able to fight their detention in both district and appeals court at the same time.

The Supreme Court in June ruled that the prisoners at Guantánamo have a constitutional right to go to U.S. District Court to challenge their detention. The high court struck down a provision of federal law that purported to strip federal courts of the authority to consider those challenges.

"Had the Congress known its attempts to eliminate the habeas jurisdiction of the district courts would come to naught, it would not have turned around and created an additional and largely duplicative process by which a detainee could challenge his detention in the court of appeals," Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision shuts down approximately 175 pending cases in that court.

"After three years of government stonewalling, the appeals court has unfortunately just taken away one of the avenues for the Guantánamo detainees to finally get a shot at justice in America," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project.

The Pentagon detains some 250 foreign men at the U.S.military prison camps in remote southeast Cuba, all designated as "enemy combatants" except for 17 Uighur Muslim men of Chinese citizenship awaiting resettlement in a nation other than their homeland.