Today’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush has reaffirmed one of the most ancient rights known to our civilization: the principle of habeas corpus, which entitles all who are imprisoned to challenge the basis for their confinement in a court of law.
In a landmark decision, the Court repudiated the efforts of Congress and the Bush administration to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions on behalf of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay and to substitute constitutionally defective procedures in their place.
That this increasingly conservative Court, so tone deaf to the demands of due process and so deferential to presidential power, has seen fit to rebuke the administration in such forceful terms, says much about the outlandishness of the policies pursued by the Bush administration.
While the 5-4 majority was a narrow one, the decision will go a long way toward restoring respect for the rule of law. What it cannot restore is the years of isolation and indignity that have been inflicted on individuals who have never been charged with a crime and may be innocent of wrongdoing.
This is the third time the Court has denounced the treatment of persons captured in the aftermath of 9/11. It is to be hoped that this time, Congress and the administration will abide by the Court’s decision and, at long last, abandon their futile attempts to circumvent the Constitution and the rule of law.