Wednesday, February 02, 2005

GUANTANAMO DETAINEES who want to challenge their detention have the right to do so in U.S. courts, with full legal representation, and they must be allowed to do so. That is yesterday's decision by Joyce Hens Green, a federal district court judge. The Supreme Court had ruled last June that Guantanamo detainees who claim they are unjustly imprisoned have a right to a review of their cases, but the Bush administration insisted that these reviews take place via administrative hearings, held in secret by military personnel in Guantanamo. Detainees had no right to independent legal counsel in these hearings, and in most cases they were not even allowed to see the evidence against them.

The federal judge made it clear that the 558 men in Guantanamo have a much stronger claim to protection under the U.S. Constitution and under the Geneva Convention than they have been given.

''Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the Commander in Chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over two hundred years," wrote Judge Joyce Hens Green.

Well said. The Bush administration cannot claim that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are fighting and dying to preserve our "way of life," and simultaneously insist that the most precious components of that way of life -- the Bill of Rights and our other constitutional protections -- aren't important and don't apply.

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