There are 600+ men detained at the US detention center in Bagram Airbase near Kabul, Afghanistan. Mostly, we know very little about them; even their names were kept secret by the Bush administration, and now by the Obama administration they are still kept as ghosts.
Tina Monshipour Foster, the Executive Director of the International Justice Network, argued for their right to challenge their detention today, in Al-Maqaley v. Gates, she told the court, on behalf of three of those men and their relatives. She has never met the men, and has been retained only by their families, who also cannot see them.
Before joining the Obama administration as the top deputy in the solicitor general’s office, Katyal won a big victory in the Supreme Court in 2006 when he represented Guantanamo Bay detainees facing military commission trials. The Supreme Court found that President George W. Bush’s military tribunals violated the constitutional separation of powers, domestic military law and international law. That ruling also applied international law to the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror. The court embraced Article 3 of the Geneva Accords which prohibits humiliating and degrading treatment.
There could be many more who challenge their illegitimate detention in U.S. courts, depending on the decision the appellate level of the US District Court for the District of Columbia renders. The lower court has already found for the Bagram detainees, against the Obama Justice Department.
The courtroom was filled with 150 spectators, including dozens of supporters of the IJN’s lawsuit. Students at CUNY Law School and Yale Law School, along with their professors, worked on the case. We gathered outside the courthouse this morning, the students bearing signs saying “STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE AT HOME AND ABROAD,” “Charged with Justice,” and “BARACK! Oh, Bagram…”
The law students are passionate about the cases they are fighting on the basis of human rights for people during the “war on terror.” The lawyers are passionate, and full of arguments up and down on why the denial of even the right to have charges detailed, and the chance to defend oneself is basic to a world we want to live in.
But the government’s case, argued by Neal Kaytal for the Justice Department, contends that giving these detainees any legal rights would to severely hinder the American occupation.