July 15, 2004
SUPREME COURT GUANTANAMO RULING: 'DECISION FOR THE AGES'
media deem the Court's ruling a "painful defeat" for the Bush
decision reflects American values and "what the United States stands
observers regret that the judgments "leave many questions
Euro and South Asian outlets lament that the Court's ruling "took such a
'Bush has received a strong rap over his
fingers'-- Writers depicted the
legal decision as a "failure" of Bush policy. Nicaragua's leftist El Nuevo Diario
proclaimed that the ruling confirms "the fundamental principle" that
"not even the worst dangers" justify "the type of general
deference to which Bush's government thinks it has a right." A Canadian daily concluded the U.S.'s
"endless war on terrorism" is no longer "a license" to
detain anyone "without recourse to the courts." France's left-of-center Le Monde
declared that while representing "defeat" for President Bush, the
decision translates to victory for "the fundamental laws of
'An astounding tribute to American democracy'-- Many papers lauded the ruling for validating
American democracy and "the strength" of the U.S. Constitution. The
U.S. Supreme Court "made it clear" that courts "continue to be
guardians protecting citizens against unlawful arrest," intoned
right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine.
Euro and Asian papers celebrated the "triumph" of checks and
balances while acclaiming the U.S. "power of self-purification" and
the "inviolability" of its institutions. The Bush administration's insistence on
indefinite detention "goes against the principles on which [the U.S.] is
based," added Paraguay's La Nacion.
The ruling 'does not go far enough'-- Some dailies asserted that questions
remain. A German daily averred that
detainees still face an "uncertain" fate. While the decision allows each detainee a legal
review, "it does not mean that those detained will automatically be
released" or exempted from military trial, an Irish paper posited. While conceding that the edict puts limits on
the president's "arbitrariness," the leftist Austrian magazine Vienna
Profil criticized the verdict as "not very far-reaching" because
the U.S. can still deny POW status to enemy combatants.
The Court rules on Gitmo's 'regime of injustice'
at 'long last!'-- Some European writers
chastised the Court for taking "too long" to hand down its
decision. There is "every possible
reason to regret" that "it took such a long time," scolded the
Danish center-right daily Jyllands- Posten. "It would have been to the USA's
credit" to have taken action "before the first prisoner arrived." India's independent Munsif faulted the
Supreme Court for being "completely unmoved" while "600 helpless
victims of American savagery in Guantanamo" were "brutally tortured
and humiliated." Britain's
independent weekly Economist reasoned that progress on improving
detainees' rights still "is plainly not fast enough."
Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press
sentiment. Posts select commentary to
provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Government. This analysis was based on
50 reports from 23 countries June 29 - July 13, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
"Legal Black Hole"
Steve Crawshaw, London director of Human Rights
Watch, commented in Sunday edition of center-left daily The Guardian
(7/4): "Last week's landmark
decision by the US Supreme Court embarrassed the Bush administration by making
clear that Guantanamo cannot simply be treated as a legal black hole.... The
spotlight on the trampling of due process by the world's most powerful
government, including the attempt to exclude independent appeal courts
entirely, is appropriate...."
"Not Good Enough"
The independent Economist noted (Internet
version, 7/1): "The courts are too
slow. Congress must change the disgraceful treatment of detainees.... The White House has managed to turn a
generally reviled group of prisoners, most of whom were picked up fighting for
al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, into figures of international sympathy. It has done
this by denying these “enemy combatants” any semblance of western
justice.... This week, the American
judicial system began the long task of righting this huge wrong. The Supreme
Court said that Mr Bush had the right to hold combatants without trial but,
crucially, it decided that the detainees at Guantánamo could have recourse to
the United States courts—something Mr Bush has (disgracefully) fought hammer
and tongs.... By affirming that 'a state
of war is not a blank cheque for the president,' the court struck an important
blow: the 595 detainees in Cuba and Mr Hamdi will now start their various
appeals to the federal courts. The military commissions themselves may come
under scrutiny.So progress has been made. But it is plainly not fast enough,
and it is also clumsy: the judges are making America's terrorist laws because
the politicians have not done so...."
"U.S. Court Strikes Blow For Justice"
The independent Financial Times editorialized (6/29): "The majority decision, taken by
justices nominated by Republican as well as Democratic administrations, strikes
a great blow for justice and for America's sullied legal reputation.... Mr. Bush has asked for the trust of the
American people and the other branches of government to do whatever is
necessary to prosecute his war on terror.
The message, first from some in Congress over the Abu Ghraib incidents
and now from the Supreme Court over Guantánamo, is that trust is not enough,
and that there are standards and laws the executive must respect. Hurrah for the separation of powers, which
has come to America's rescue."
The conservative Times held (6/29): "The decision by the US Supreme Court
that the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to challenge
their captivity in American courts is wise and brave. It is wise because the
notion that these captives would have no legal status at all, and for however
long they were held, is wrong. It is brave because the majority on the court
have acted against the wishes of the Bush Administration and, it is fair to
anticipate, contrary to the instincts of many individual Americans as well.... That the ruling is a victory for the American
judiciary over its misguided critics should not be doubted. The Supreme Court was described by Justice
Oliver Wendell Holmes as 'quiet', but only because it was the 'quiet of a storm
center'. This court has correctly placed
itself at the center of this political storm and re-emphasized the importance
of the rule of law."
The center-left Independent stated (6/29): "The U.S. Supreme Court may have a
majority of Republican appointees, but its justices have shown they know what
the United States stands for, even if the current Republican president seems to
have forgotten.... This does not mean
that the Guantánamo detainees will necessarily be released, but it does mean
that they have rights that must now be respected."
FRANCE: "The Return Of
Left-of-center Le Monde maintained (6/30): “It took the Supreme Court two years to give
its decision on Guantánamo, an area which stands outside the law and was
created by the Bush administration....
The decision represents a failure for President Bush.... By granting the detainees the right to
contest their own detention before a U.S. court, the Supreme Court is also
reminding the president that he cannot take over the judiciary, and that the
presidency cannot be exempt from the law....
We must be happy about these decisions because not only do they
represent defeat for President Bush, they also mean victory for the fundamental
laws of democracy.”
"A Tribute To America"
Francois Ernenwein wrote in Catholic La Croix (6/30): “In the battle he has engaged in, President
Bush keeps meeting tough opponents. One
of those is Michael Moore.... But
Moore’s criticism has not affected the White House. Let’s face it: the U.S. remains the only superpower,
committed to a total war against terrorism.
On the other hand, President Bush’s worries may be coming from another
front: his disregard for the law. In a nation where the law plays such a
central role, the lightness with which he and his advisors have treated the law
is indeed surprising. The errors of the
president and his men are coming back to haunt them. They have managed to transform the toppling
of a tyrant into an illegitimate war and the liberation of a nation into an
occupation.... Now the Supreme Court’s
legal criticism of U.S. policy will require a quick response.... Herein lies the paradox: while the Supreme Court’s decision is a
stinging defeat for the U.S. president, it is also an astounding tribute to
GERMANY: "A Legal
Steffen Hebestreit commented in left-of-center Frankfurter
Rundschau (7/9): "The
procedures are a joke, but not a good one.
Almost two years after the war against Afghanistan, the Pentagon itself
wants to check whether 594 prisoners in the Guantánamo camp in Cuba were
correctly classified as 'enemy combatants'.
Taking the legal path, the Department of Defense seems to follow the
orders of the Supreme Court. But it only
seems so. Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz
wants to set up military tribunals comprised of three 'neutral' officers who
decide the fate of the detainee. Each
delinquent will be assigned a 'representative', who must be a member of the military,
but must not have any legal knowledge - how suitable. Beyond that, the military court turns the
presentation of the case upside down; Guantánamo detainees must give evidence
for their innocence. All that proves
that the announced procedures have little to do with a return to the rule of
law, of which the United States could be so proud of for centuries. The U.S. government, which created the legal
status 'enemy combatant' two years ago, is still not willing to bow to
international law and the Geneva Convention.
The news is that the highest U.S. representatives care little about a
Supreme Court verdict. Let's see how
long the Supreme Court will accept this."
Regional newspaper Pforzheimer Zeitung of Pforzheim (7/9)
editorialized: "At long last! 595 people will not be held at Guantánamo Bay
without reasons given for it. Under the
pressure of the Supreme Court it will be checked why they are held at the U.S.
Marine base. The current development is
encouraging, even though the Bush administration is just trying to avert a wave
of charges with these hearings. It must
acknowledge one thing after the verdict of the Supreme Court: prisoners of war have rights, even when
calling them 'enemy combatants'."
"Door To Justice"
Katja Gelinsky commented in influential,
independent, nationwide right-of-center daily Frankfurter Allgemeine
(Internet Version, 7/3): The Guantanamo
prisoners will have their day in court.
This much is certain after the US Supreme Court ruling. But this is all that is certain with regard
to the fate of the 600 or so prisoners, most of whom were arrested as suspected
accomplices of the Taliban or the Al-Qa'ida terrorist organization during the
war in Afghanistan in 2001. The Supreme
Court has neither said where and when the prisoners may seek legal protection
against their arrest, nor have the Supreme Court judges defined any specific
conditions for the proceedings.
Moreover, there were a whole number of issues on which the judges were
not agreed.... Arguments will be
particularly difficult over the Guantanamo cases for which the legal groundwork
still needs to be done. Yet the
cornerstones that the Supreme Court has laid for the prisoners are rightly
praised as an important support for the rule of law, which was under threat as
a result of the unlimited detention of suspected terrorists. The Supreme Court made it clear that the
country's courts continue to be guardians protecting citizens against unlawful
arrest also in the struggle against terrorism, irrespective of whether the
arrested individuals are US citizens or not.
Particularly when times are difficult, the United States has to uphold
the very principles for which it fights abroad, the Hamdi ruling says, in which
the court confirmed the right of US citizen Yaser Easam Hamdi, who is suspected
of terrorism, to a fair trial. Yet the
Bush administration was less clearly put in its place by the Supreme Court
judges than one might assume when listening to the cries of triumph of the
Democrats on their campaign trail, who, by the way, have done little in terms
of substance against Bush's Guantanamo policy.
As far as the reasons for the decision in the case of Hamdi are
concerned, several basic assumptions made by the White House have been
acknowledged. It is accepted that the
United States continues to be at "war" the end of which is not in
sight. Suspected accomplices of the
Taliban and Al-Qa'ida may be detained as "enemy combatants" for as long
as US troops are fighting in Afghanistan.
This even applies to US citizens.
The judges thus implicitly recognize the view of the administration that
the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 ushered in a new era in which the
struggle against terrorism can no longer be fought solely with the traditional
tools of criminal prosecution authorities and penal justice. They also have no objections that the Bush
administration denies its duty to protect suspected Al-Qa'ida members it
arrested in keeping with the Geneva Convention. The Supreme Court has rather evaded any
ruling on the argument over international obligations the United States has to
protect prisoners against torture and inhuman treatment.... Civil rights activists have rightly pointed
out that the Supreme Court "has not closed the door to justice for the
Guantanamo prisoners. This, however, is
not sufficient. What matters now is to
also find a way to eliminate the injustice done to the Guantanamo prisoners.
Washington correspondent Wolfgang Koydl filed the following
editorial for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/30): "We have never seen the Bush
administration, which usually shows its superiority, in such a sheepish way as
now after the Supreme Court ruling. The
embarrassed silence is understandable, since the ruling not only means a legal
but also a political defeat for the government.... The practical consequences of this ruling are
far-reaching and for the armed forces, which operate the detention camps, they
mean a logistical nightmare, for the first demand lawyers will now raise is
access to their clients and permission for relatives to see the detainees. But Guantánamo has been sealed off from the
outside and visits by civilians are hard to imagine. This raises the question of whether hearings
must take place in a U.S. court, and it is unclear whether the detainees have
the right to name witnesses and to fly them in.
Other lawyers even think that the alleged Taliban and al-Qaida members
can commit a very malicious tort: to ask
for compensation for the years in prison."
"The Law And Terror"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
opined (6/30): "The development for
the U.S. administration could not have been worse: at the same day when the Americans returned
sovereignty to a country that has got out of control, George W. Bush got on the
defensive at another front.... This is a
clear defeat for the U.S. government....
President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's cynical attempt to
detain more than 600 'illegal enemy combatants' in Cuba, thus withdrawing them
from the judiciary, has failed. Now the
U.S. government must reveal what it has in its hands against the
prisoners.... If evidence is not
sufficient, Bush is threatened with a similar worst-case scenario than he faced
in the scandal over the pictures of torture from Abu Ghraib. Following the painful experience in Iraq that
terrorism cannot be fought with military power alone, the Americans must now
learn another lesson: their attempt to
stand above the law deprived them of their most important good in the fight
against terror: credibility."
"Against The Arbitrariness Of Power"
Astrid Huelscher penned the following editorial for left-of-center
Frankfurter Rundschau (6/30):
"The Supreme Court took a long time before it ruled on the regime
of injustice in Guantánamo. And it was
probably easier to remember the primacy of the rule of law exactly at the
moment, when the mood among Americans is beginning to change to skepticism, if
not rejection of the Iraq war.... The
ruling of the supreme judges has now opened the chance of the detainees from
Guantánamo to go to court. And this is
much, in light of the two years of uncertainty and lawlessness. In addition, the ruling has another
significance: it showed the government
its limits and it deprived the government of the arrogated absolute rule over
the law. The judges helped making the
principles of international law irreversible.
And the utopian view of the universality of human rights will now become
a bit more concrete if it withstands the terrorist challenge and if democratic
states do not allow security to eat freedom."
Torsten Krauel commented in major
right-of-center daily Berlin Die Welt (6/30): "If anyone needed an idea of what
constitutes a state governed by the rule of law, they may just look at what the
US Supreme Court delivered yesterday.
The judges confirmed the right of the US Administration to arrest people
in the interest of national security without indictment, but they also
confirmed the right of such prisoners to the due process of law. As a result, one of the cornerstones of George
W. Bush's antiterrorism policy has collapsed.
The reason is that the verdict of the Supreme Court rob the
administration of a means of exerting pressure by threatening to order
unlimited detention, with which the Pentagon wanted to make those talk who were
unwilling to testify, and to deactivate 'illegal combatants' it believes to be
dangerous. What the judges did de facto
was to put the rule of law above the President's claim to define what the
country's national security is. This
distinguishes a dictatorship from a democracy founded on the rule of law. The Supreme Court rulings will perhaps be
widely interpreted in the United States as the beginning of the end of a
'national security state' hooked on secrecy, which, in this view of the world,
appeared to have been on an unstoppable advance ever since the foundation of
the CIA in 1947. For practical politics,
the verdict means that the Al-Qa'ida prisoners either have to be released or
given access to US criminal courts. This
is an ambivalent decision. The law has
won, fortunately. Yet US penal law makes
it obligatory for the accused to be fully informed about the public
prosecutor's knowledge so that they are able to adequately defend
themselves. The idea to set up the
special camp in Guantanamo was due to the concern about having to disclose US
intelligence service information to Al-Qa'ida suspects. The judges failed to share this
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine noted (6/29): "The Supreme Court had no other choice
but to open the path to U.S. courts for the Guantánamo prisoners. This was not only a question of
constitutional rights for every individual under U.S. sovereignty, but also of
the separation of powers in the United States.
Why should the highest judges accept that the government wanted to
safeguard an area that was free from the law and courts, and put the detention
camps in a worse position than U.S. vessels on the high seas? The Bush administration subjected hundreds of
people for more than two years to administrative rules without offering control
possibilities or legal support. This was
bad enough, but the various decisions by lower courts even intensified this
situation of uncertainty. Once they said
that the government has clear authorities, then some judges said the government
is overstretching the law. But now it is
clear: there are no prisoners without
Washington correspondent Malte Lehming filed the following
editorial for centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (6/29): "The timing was perfect. The U.S. government may have thought that if
it had to accept a defeat, then it should at least not dominate the
headlines.... The news was dominated by
the coup of the early transfer of power in Iraq.... The more than 600 prisoners in Guantánamo can
now see a glimmer of hope. Their fate no
longer depends on the president's arbitrariness. The judiciary has put politics in its
Arnd Festerling noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau
(6/29): "The decision is directed
against George W. Bush's policy.... but
the Supreme Court did not deny the president the right to turn the prisoners
into 'enemy combatants.' It only states
that the state of war is no blank check for the U.S. president to do with
prisoners whatever he likes. So it is
still uncertain what happens to the prisoners.
They only have the right to get legal support. Is this a defeat or a success for George W.
Bush? The ruling lies somewhere in
between. And it does certainly not go
"Guantanamo Bay: Triumph Of Law"
Leading financial and economic daily Duesseldorf
Handelsblatt opined (6/29): It is a
defeat for George W. Bush and a triumph for the state based on the rule of law:
the US Supreme Court has ruled that suspected terrorists must be given access
to courts of law of the United States. Since the establishment of the prisoner
camp at the US base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Bush administration has tried
to prevent precisely that. Its
explanation was that these were not regular prisoners of war, but irregular
This had meant to take into account the needs of
the intelligence services and the military: unhindered by international
regulations, suspects could be questioned quickly and for an indefinite period
of time. In some cases, substantive
evidence against suspects existed, while in others there was just a vague
suspicion. The rule of law lost out with
this procedure. For Guantanamo Bay
created a new category of prisoners that must not exist even in the war against
terrorism: a category of people having no rights, who are unable to defend
themselves, and against whom the state does not even have to make a specific
indictment. The ruling of the US judges
comes too late. The political irony of the
story is that it comes at the most inopportune moment for Bush and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: right in the middle of the presidential election
campaign and before the scandal over torture in the Abu-Ghurayb prison has been
cleared up. The judges, however, have
shown the embittered enemies of the United States yet again what distinguishes
this country: the power of self-purification even in moments of harsh internal
and international conflicts. This is the
real strength of the United States.
ITALY: "Civil Rights?
They Live In The West"
Massimo Teodoro commented in right-of-center
daily Milan Il Giornale (7/2): The West,
our West, has never been as vituperated as today. It is not only the bearers of antiliberal
ideologies who rage against our capitalist and globalist civility, seeking to
make it appear responsible for crimes against the weaker peoples of the
world. The war against terrorism, which
of course has had some noncommendable chapters, has been taken as a pretext for
declaring the end of democracy in the United States and the nazification of
Israel. Bush has been insulted on the
same plane as Bin Ladin; Sharon has been criminalized as a naziist. The many
and such vulgar lies have been negated by two exemplary sentences by the United
States and Israeli Supreme Courts. With
a nonfortuitous coincidence, the two most accused countries--the United States
and Israel--have shown that the West is still able to best express its
civilization through its highest juridical and constitutional national
institutions. The State governed by
law, the home-site of liberal civilization, is alive and kicking, and with it,
civil and human rights.... Even in such
circumstances as would have made any country turn barbarous, the United States
and Israel have kept their institutions and their democratic and liberal rules
inviolable. It is all too true that the
American wars became marshy in aberrations such as the tortures at Abu Ghurayb
and the Guantanamo prisons, but it is now clear that the constitutional system
is able to quickly rid itself of antibodies....
Human rights, codified in the US Constitution before they were in
international law, have returned to their top position of enforceability in the
American system.... The State governed
by law reigns supreme....
"Guantánamo, The Prisoners Will Be Transferred To U.S."
Roberto Rezzo stated in pro-democratic left party (DS) daily L’Unità
(7/1): “The Supreme Court caught the
Bush administration off guard. Hundreds
of prisoners being held in Guantánamo, Cuba could soon be transferred to a U.S.
prison.... The Supreme Court’s ruling
compels the Bush administration to speed up the reorganization of the
Guantánamo prison site, which has been criticized by human rights organizations
both at home and abroad.”
RUSSIA: "A Slap In
Andrey Terekhov wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(6/30): "A slap in the face of the
Bush administration is how analysts describe a decision by the U.S. Supreme
Court...to offer Guantánamo prisoners a chance to get free. The ruling may have important consequences,
according to observers. It is not only
the fate of the 600 people, who got to Guantánamo mostly from Afghanistan. It is the whole range of urgent measures the
White House, Pentagon and Justice Department worked out after September 11,
2001, to combat terrorism."
Monsters And Judges"
Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof commented in leftist
weekly newsmagazine Vienna Profil (7/5):
"....Certainly the verdict of the very conservative body of judges
is not very far-reaching. The President
can continue to declare foreigners and US citizens to be enemy combatants and
thereby deny them the status of prisoners of war. The Supreme Court, however, does not want to
go along with the complete repeal of constitutional principles. Limits are finally being put on the President's
arbitrariness. This is a heavy blow for
Bush, who until now as commander in chief has been able to act unhindered in
his 'war against terrorism.' It shows
that the highly developed system of checks and balances still works in America
and that the constitutional state has not been completely abrogated.... The new century, however, [has] brought a
severe setback for human rights. The
United States, the sole superpower, essentially declared "obsolete"
all civilizing rules of warfare that were developed over the centuries. The goal of fighting the new devil of
terrorism justifies all means. That is
the logic of the Bush policy. We are experiencing
an unprecedented historical regression, an erosion of international rules
developed over the long term that make the coexistence of peoples tolerable and
that are supposed to limit the suffering of soldiers and above all of civilians
in the event of military hostilities. To
put it dramatically, these civilizing achievements of humanity are at
risk. The Supreme Court in Washington
has now at least put up a small stop sign on the way to
"Guantanamo, A Gigantic Propaganda Machine For U.S.
Senior writer Hubert Van Humbeeck in liberal
weekly Knack opined (7/7): "Because it was so reckless when it
arrested people who were suspected of terrorist activities the U.S. government
turned a number of weird men who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan into
victims. By denying them the right to a
normal trial Guantanamo became a gigantic propaganda machine for America's
adversaries. The United States is in
dire straits. The longer the prisoners
stay in Guantanamo the less it seems to be justified. If they are set free, no court will ever
convict them: the evidence that was collected there - under those circumstances
- will be accepted nowhere. Today, the Supreme Court is trying to solve the
problem. It is willing to give the
Guantanamo prisoners a chance to appear before normal American courts.... But, judicially, it is working in a
vacuum. The judges are now drafting the
terrorism laws that the politicians failed to write. Consequently, the arrest is a sneer at the
U.S. Congress that simply did not do its job.
It approved a pompous program for the creation of an expensive domestic
security system, but it failed to create a legal framework that makes it
possible to bring prisoners suspected of terrorist activities to court."
CZECH REPUBLIC: Not Even
Bush Is Above Law
Radek Tomasek noted in the business Hospodarske noviny
(7/8): "The ruling of the U.S.
Supreme Court [over the issue of whether enemies detained by the U.S. Army
outside of U.S. territory (mainly the detainees at Guantanamo) have the right
to be tried by American courts] has put an end to an unprecedented
injustice. The Court has shattered
arguments of the Bush Administration claiming that Guantanamo is a territory
not subject to law.... This ruling has
substantially weakened the current U.S. Administration and the indirect
consequence will be that part of the Guantanamo detainees will have to be
released, so that their detention does not have to be defended in
court.... The most important victory,
however, is that the rule of law may never be influenced by anyone, however
high his or her position may be. Not
even the U.S. President."
DENMARK: "Ruling On
'No-Man's Land' In Guantánamo"
The center-right Jyllands-Posten noted
(Internet version, 6/30): "For
decades the American Guantánamo naval base has stood as a light of freedom in
Cuba, the communist dictatorship. But
since the war on terror began on 11 September 2001, Guantánamo has
unfortunately come to look like a no-man's land in international legal and
juridical terms for the approximately 600 people sitting interned at the base
as 'enemy combatants.' For far too many
people the world over their unusual status has left the impression that the
United States is not completely a state ruled of the law. The Supreme Court of the United States has
now hammered a stake through that view in two rulings to firmly state that
those people who are interned at Guantánamo as 'enemy combatants' have the
right to 'a significant chance to contest the factual basis for their
internment.'.... The Supreme Court
[also] does not want to recognize the Bush government's interpretation that,
technically speaking, Guantánamo is a no-man's land because the base is located
in Cuba.... The rulings are satisfying
evidence that the United States is a society ruled by law, even if the
consequences are difficult to grasp....
There is every possible reason to regret that it took such a long time
before the Guantánamo prisoners' rights were clarified. It would have been to the USA's credit if
that condition had been put in place before the first prisoner arrived at the
"Vain Attempt At Legitimacy"
Max Arhippainen wrote in Swedish-language
center-right Helsinki Hufvudstadsbladet (Internet Version, 7/11): "The US Supreme Court ruled that the
prisoners at Guantanamo have the right to be heard before a federal court in the United
States. The Bush administration's
response is that the cases of all the
584 prisoners will be investigated by specially created tribunals. This is a vain attempt to lend legitimacy to
what is happening at the military base.
The prisoners are allowed neither
to defend themselves under American law nor demand to be treated as prisoners of
war under the Geneva Convention. It is of course a step forward that the prisoners
are being given even the possibility of
being heard. But an improvised tribunal
of US officers at which the prisoners are
dealt with without any right of legal assistance does not smooth over
the flagrant US violation of all the
principles of a rule-of-law state."
Glimmer Of Light At Guantánamo"
Sture Gadd opined in left-of-center, Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet
(Internet version, 6/30): "It has
been a scandal that the United States of America has held several hundred
prisoners at Guantánamo without trial and under loathsome conditions. The U.S. demand that Americans not be
prosecuted before the International Criminal Court and the reports from Abu
Ghraib have strengthened the impression of American self-righteousness and
arrogance. The Supreme Court in the
United States has now found that the prisoners at Guantánamo can bring their
cases before the courts--a matter that ought to be obvious. The decision is a serious and welcome rebuke
of President Bush's government. Those
who tell everyone else what is right must follow similar demands
"They Are Not Lawful Combatants In A Lawful War"
Kevin Myers held in the center-left Irish
Times (7/7): "Are the people in Guantanamo Bay
innocent civilians?.... So put yourself
in the position of the US president.... You say that these people were
combatants in Afghanistan, serving either the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Does it make
any sense whatever to let these people return to their homelands to reconnect
with the terrorist networks which send them to Afghanistan in the first place?
What about the Geneva Conventions?.…
None of the Geneva Conventions apply to them because they are not lawful
combatants in a lawful war. Which is not to say that they shouldn't be treated
humanely. But they are prisoners, and there is no way that the US can simply
allow them their freedom while the global war continues. In a sense, it's a
great shame that George Bush announced the global war on terror as if the
initiative were being taken by him and the U.S.
In fact, the opposite was the case. The war began in the last century,
and it erupted right across the world at the instigation of Osama bin Laden and
his lieutenants. They are waging jihad against the infidel, and their holy war
knows no boundaries, nor law, nor convention, nor restraint.”
"Historic Guantánamo Bay Ruling Has Wide
Dr. Ray Murphy, a lecturer in law at the National University in
Galway, commented in the center-left Irish Times (6/30): "The U.S. Supreme Court decision that
600 Guantánamo Bay inmates can
challenge their detention is a setback for the Bush administration.... The members of the Supreme Court seemed aware
of the historic nature of the decision and its wider implications for the
review of executive decisions by the judiciary.... The liberal and conservative wings of the
court found common ground in the conclusion that the U.S. president had gone
too far. However, the judgments still
leave many questions unanswered. Lawyers
will now have to move swiftly to test the scope of the ruling.... To date the Bush administration has
disregarded the provisions of the [Geneva] convention with impunity. The Supreme Court decision will allow each
detainee to have the legality of his detention reviewed by a federal
court. It does not mean that those
detained will automatically be released.
Nor does it prevent trial by specially constituted military
commissions.... In the long term the
U.S. has most to lose by its current policy regarding the Taliban and al-Qaida
detainees. Conflicts in Iraq and
elsewhere show that U.S. soldiers will continue to need the very protection
their own government denied those captured in Afghanistan. A true measure of the strength of a democracy
and its commitment to human rights can be determined by the manner in which it
responds to crisis and real threats, even of the proportions caused by the
September 11th atrocities."
NETHERLANDS: "No Blank
Influential, liberal De Volkskrant commented (6/30): "A state of war does not give the
president a 'blank check' when civil rights are at stake. On the basis of this principle the Supreme
Court decided that all 'enemy combatants' have the right to challenge their
detention before an American court....
The Supreme Court ruling is unmistakably a painful defeat for the Bush
administration but at the same time this is also a triumph of the American
system of checks and balances. A triumph
that is brought out in full by the fact that the government has been
reprimanded by the same Supreme Court, which, in the conflict over the Florida
votes, has been so helpful toward the president."
Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad editorialized
(6/29): "The same judges who helped
George W. Bush get into the White House after the controversial election battle
with Al Gore now have reprimanded the U.S. president. The 'hostile combatants' in Guantánamo now
have the right to go to an American court to contest their detention.... It is still unclear what will become of the
prisoners at Guantánamo.... The position
adopted by the American government that Guantánamo is a juridical black hole
has turned out to be unacceptable. It is
about time for a round of 'lessons learned' in the White House."
NORWAY: "Guantanamo To
Leading national daily Oslo Aftenposten
commented (Internet Version, 7/9):
"....What was special about the Supreme Court's ruling was that the
court stated that US law also applies at Guantanamo and that the detainees have
a right to have their cases tried before US courts. Here the court reverted to principles which
were laid down in English law as long ago as 1215 in the Magna Charta and which
were later included in US law. The
principle is embarrassingly simple: No
one can be kept prisoner, be deprived of his belongings, be declared an outlaw,
or sent into exile without being sentenced in a court of his peers and in line
with the laws of the land.... This
review is late in coming and it is by no means certain that it will bring any
good with it.... As a result of the
Supreme Court's ruling, the way has now been opened for each and every one of
the currently 595 internees to be able to have their cases tried before US
courts, or for them to be set free because there is no foundation for keeping
them prisoner. This is the essence of
the Supreme Court's ruling and it is something that the administration in
Washington must comply with, as soon as possible.
"Serious Rap For Bush"
Per Egil Hegge commented in the newspaper of record Aftenposten
(7/1): "In addition to the problems
in Iraq and NATO, President George W. Bush has received a strong rap over his
fingers from the U.S. Supreme Court, which this week denied the
administration's legal thinking and handling regarding POWs.... A particularly serious setback for Bush is
that the thinking of the White House has been branded as legally,
constitutionally and also to a large extent ethically unacceptable."
El País, left-of-center daily, wrote (7/6): "....The Bush Administration has lost no
time setting up military tribunals in response to the decision of the Supreme
Court that the Guantanamo detainees are entitled to habeas corpus.... The fact that the detainees are enemies or
illegal combatants caught outside the US....
is not a reason for denying them their rights as the Bush Administration
insisted after 9/11.... But.... what most important is that the Administration
selected Guantanamo as a legal maneuver to interrogate these prisoners outside
the margins of the law. That is why,
after the decision of the Supreme Court, [the Administration] is [morally]
obliged to close the center of detention in the island, and to transfer the
prisoners to the US as some jurists are asking for, and provide for an open and
fair trial. The judge of the Supreme
Court, Sandra O'Connor, has reminded that there one must stay true at home to
those principles for which we are fighting for abroad."
"The Limbo Or The Law"
Conservative ABC held (6/30): "What has happened with the unusual
regime of detention that the U.S. administration created at the military base
of Guantánamo is a good lesson for those who believe in democracy.... However....
these persons weren't at Guantánamo because of a banal offense.... For this reason it would be a dangerous
mistake now to interpret the judgment of the Supreme Court as a defeat of the
U.S. government [as it also]....
recognizes [the legitimacy of] the detentions. When the rule of law shines, is always a
victory for the democracy, because it reaffirms that is the best system to
effectively govern the cohabitation of people and countries. And, in this case with more reason because it
has been proved that freedom even effectively protects those who want to end it
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
For The Law Defines Democracies"
The national conservative Australian
stated (7/13): “The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court that
terror suspects cannot be left in the legal limbo of indefinite detention at
Guantanamo Bay will likely delight Osama bin Laden. He will be equally pleased
by the ruling of Israel's Supreme Court that the country's defensive wall,
designed to protect it from terror attacks, must come down where it too
severely disrupts Palestinian communities. Both decisions demonstrate the great
weakness of democracies in fighting terror – their governments are subject to
the law, even when it harms the national interest.... Balancing the rights of individuals against
national security is especially difficult in this new type of war on terror.
The US Supreme Court has decided Hicks, Habib and their peers enjoy the
protection of US civil law, which could make it easier for them to win their
freedom. But as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor defined the challenge
for democracies, 'We must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for
"Guantánamo Ruling A Victory For Justice"
The liberal Age of Melbourne commented (6/30): “David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib and others can no
longer be denied due process.... In time
of war, the Administration has argued, extraordinary measures are required,
including some that violate due process.
The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the foreign prisoners at Guantánamo
and related rulings concerning U.S. citizens do not deal directly with the
issue of the military commissions, but they do repudiate the notion that a
state of war is what the court called 'a blank check for the
president.'.... Whether [the Guantánamo
detainees].... are ultimately convicted
or acquitted, they cannot be denied the just hearing that the U.S.
administration wished to deny them. The Australian government was all too
willing to acquiesce in that denial.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Liberty, Not Hypocrisy Must Underpin
The independent English-language South China Morning Post
editorialized (7/6): "The war on terrorism
that followed September 11 has curtailed civil liberties within the U.S. and
created a fortress mentality at its borders.
The unlawful detention of prisoners captured after the fall of the
Taliban in Afghanistan has yet to end, while the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq has
only stoked the flames of insurgency in the still-unstable country. The roots of these controversies can be found
in the defiance of the values the new tower and America are said to stand for. Arguably, ending the hypocrisy would help
make the U.S. and its allies safer. As
the U.S. Supreme Court justices noted in their recent ruling on the need to
grant Guantanamo prisoners access to the courts, a state of war does not give
authorities a blank cheque to trample on rights promised in the American
constitution. Renewed commitment to the
ideals - in deed and not just word - would be a fitting tribute to those who
died in 2001. The dedication of the new
World Trade Centre building reminds us that we have yet to solve the main
post-September 11 challenge: how to have security without giving up cherished
NEW ZEALAND: "Justice
To Be Served"
The Otago Daily Times provided an
editorial (7/3): So, another pillar of
President George W Bush's Iraq adventure has been destroyed: no weapons of mass destruction found; no
linkage proved between Al Qaeda and the September 11 mass murders; and now, no
justification to deny "detainees" their civil rights. President Bush and his administration can
draw little comfort from these substantial defeats but theAmerican people at
least can feel confident about the strength of their constitution, for the
Supreme Court has shown that in a open democracy, tyrannical actions, even
those of a President, can be and are subject to exposure and restraint.... The court ruled everyone was entitled to
contest their detention. By so doing the court has helped re-establish the
proper balance between the demands of national security and the certainty of
individual civil liberties in both war and peace. In future proceedings, the
American government will also be obliged to justify detentions. However, a
Supreme Court ruling is one thing; when or even whether the
"detainees" get their chance to tell their story in an ordinary court
before a jury is quite another. It is not clear how the court's decisions will
be interpreted by the Bush administration, especially with respect to
"detainees" held outside the mainland.... In affirming that in the United States, rules
and laws apply to all, no matter who the accused or the accuser may be, the
Supreme Court's decision is reassuring in the face of actions of callous
indifference to civil liberties. The actions of President Bush and his chief
advisers are important reminders to everyone living in a democracy that no government
can ever be trusted not to abuse the power it claims, and that individual
freedom should never rest on any government's claims of benevolence.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Gaza, And India"
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavananalysis opined in
the centrist The Hindu (7/9):
"The American Supreme Court's decisions of June 28, 2004, on the
Guantanamo Bay detenus merit far greater scrutiny than the generally euphoric
applause that has greeted them.... The
core question before the Court was whether the U.S. administration had the
power to detain what it called `enemy combatants' - a phrase which, according
to the Court, eluded exact description....
The idea that an administration can detain people without clear
provisions authorizing detention is wholly subversive of the rule of law. The
Guantanamo Bay majority judgments effectively authorize American forces to
detain anyone - innocent or otherwise - in the war zone, declare them to be
`enemy combatants' and interrogate them, leaving them to challenge not the
basis but broadly the conditions and length of detention. This effectively
confirms the near absolutist imperial military power of America to preserve the
lawfulness of the legal black hole while allowing some fragments of legality to
penetrate its density.... Normally,
courts are very reluctant to interfere with what the military does. But recent
judgments show how courts can become the conscience keepers of the army. Even
though most of the Israeli Army's military strategies are harsh, Chief Justice
Aharon Barak of the Israeli Supreme Court led the way in putting humanitarian
restraints on the Army's maneuvers. In the Physicians for Human Rights judgment
(May 30, 2004), the Court refused to go into military strategy questions of Israel's
presence in the Gaza Strip, but directed the provision of water, electricity,
evacuation of the wounded, investigations into firing and medical support in
the area. There are several thresholds
of judicial intervention. At the lowest level is the American Guantanamo Bay
judgment, which condones and legitimates the unlawfulness of America's military
actions while affording a minimal due process. At the next level, come a large
number of judgments requiring a humanitarian due process from the army.... The Guantanamo decisions have different
meanings for different people. For liberal Americans, some light is shed on a
legal black hole. For all of us, America's military powers are enhanced with a
thin coat of sugar. For the cause of American civil liberties, these judgments
are a step forward. For the rest of us, they leap backwards to legalize the
patently unlawful. American justice simply does not offer enough on
"Historic Decision Of American Supreme Court"
An editorial in independent Urdu daily Munsif
held (7/3): "The ruling of the American Supreme Court allowing the
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detention is to be
welcomed by the whole civilized world.
In a sense, the ruling is even path breaking given the common perception
of the American Supreme Court that it is guided in its decisions generally by
national interests, military strategy and the political exigencies of the
government rather than by the principles of unbiased justice and human
considerations. It is this characteristic of the American judicial system that
allowed the inhuman and Draconian laws to be enacted under the excuse of
fighting terror after the 9/11 tragedy.
Hundreds of prisoners continued to be brutally tortured and humiliated
and the American Supreme Court remained completely unmoved as it refused to
entertain several petitions seeking justice for more than 600 helpless victims
of American savagery in Guantanamo. One may hope that the Supreme Courts'
recent ruling will help the justice prevail."
"No Blank Checks For Bush"
The nationalist Hindustan Times commented (Internet
version, 7/1): "The U.S. Supreme
Court's ruling that the inmates of Guantánamo Bay could challenge their
confinement is a huge victory for human rights advocates. The detention of 595 alleged members of the
Taliban and al-Qaida at Guantánamo Bay....
has been a big scar on the face of the Bush administration's conduct of
the war against global terrorism. The
U.S. has flouted all principles of civil liberties in refusing the detainees
access to legal aid and holding them for months and years without charging them
with any crime. The Supreme Court
judgment can also be seen as a severe indictment of the U.S. government's
contention that the president, as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces,
had the authority to detain 'enemy combatants'.
Guantánamo Bay has come to represent a misuse of the.... U.S. congressional resolution allowing Mr
Bush to use 'all necessary and appropriate force' against al-Qaida and the
Taliban.... With the American apex court
pushing for due process, the Pentagon has at last set up military
tribunals...to try the cases of three Guantánamo prisoners. The cardinal principle of the modern justice
system, of which the U.S. claims to be a great advocate, is that all persons
are presumed innocent till proven guilty, and that the accused have the right
to have their day in court, be they foreign nationals or dreaded
terrorists. Given the miscarriage of
justice till now, the process must be transparent, free and fair and ensure
that justice is done."
The centrist national English daily, The News, posited
(07/02): "The report that the long
forgotten prisoners of the infamous Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are likely
to be shifted to United States on the basis of an American Supreme Court ruling
is most welcome news.... This is a most
unfortunate situation and needs to be strongly condemned. Apart from the fact
the Americans had no right to take them out of Afghanistan, keeping them in a
state of limbo is equally deplorable.
There is no reason why they could not have been investigated and tried
in Afghanistan.... American laws are not
a part of the criminal code of other states.
Moreover, humanitarian compulsions demand that prisoners are released
immediately and their suffering ended.
Editorialist Serge Truffaut commented in the liberal Le Devoir
(07/09): "Ten days ago, the United States Supreme Court declared that the
inmates at Guantanamo Bay had rights until then unrecognized by the Bush
administration. Outraged by the affront, Pentagon bosses conceived a parade that
illustrates how fanatical they are. Evidently, the Pentagon is determined to
counter any offensive that would end the legal vacuum giving them a free hand
in all matters related to the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz just signed a decree stating that military courts will
be called to examine each case. As requested by Wolfowitz and approved by the
Presidency, these courts will determine whether the enemy combatant status, by
which more than 600 people have been detained, is justified or not. Clearly, if
someone's status is confirmed, that person will remain in Guantanamo.... Each prisoner who asks these courts to study
his case will be assisted by an American officer, not an attorney, who will
help him build his case. No more. If he wishes to call witnesses, he will be
able to do so under the condition that the witnesses are.... 'reasonably available'! What is this parody
of justice? How, for example, do you call, for instance, a witness living in
Afghanistan? Officially, the Bush administration says it hopes that this
measure will be in accordance with last week's Supreme Court conclusions.
Unofficially, they are betting the measure in question will so depress the
detainees that they will abandon all recourse. They want to gain time, as much
time as possible, so that the question is not referred to any federal court
before the elections. Clearly, the decision by a judge to free a hundred or so
enemy combatants before the final round between Bush and John Kerry would not
be appreciated in high places.... It is
necessary to note the legal ambiguity that distinguishes Guantanamo Bay. In
this matter, Bush, Wolfowitz and their consorts had claimed that the treaty
signed with Cuba stated that Guantanamo Bay was under the sovereignty of Cuba.
But this same treaty also states that the United States has jurisdiction over
the area. Better, that they control it. Naturally, it is this paragraph that
was emphasized by members of the Supreme Court.... The retort conceived by Wolfowitz with the
approval of the White House is an affront to the Supreme Court. So much so that
one can ask whether it is not also an affront to the Constitution."
"Long Arm of the Law Nabs Bush"
Haroon Siddiqui, editorial page editor emeritus
for left-of-center Toronto Star, commented in the Star (Internet
Version, 7/8): "Post-9/11 America
suffered a near-breakdown of the democratic checks and balances on the
executive branch of government by the legislature, independent law enforcement
agencies, the courts,the media and public opinion. All became blindly patriotic. It's only now —
after the Iraq fiasco and the growing crisis of confidence at home — that they
are reasserting their role, in varying degrees.... But no institution has intervened with as
much force and legal authority as the U.S. Supreme Court in stating that the
Bush administration cannot continue to operate above the law.The magnitude of
what the judges have just done comes into focus when you consider that they are
the same people who made George W. Bush president after the Florida recount;
that their philosophical bent has been conservative; and that,
historically, the court has been deferential to
presidents in times of war, as in 1944 when approving Franklin D. Roosevelt's
shameful detention of Japanese Americans. The court did not just reject the
Bush administration's idea of holding terrorism suspects indefinitely without
recourse to the courts or lawyers. The
judges demolished its entire rationale....
Cumulatively, the court's message was loud and clear: Bush's endless war on terrorism is not a
license to hold Americans or even foreigners without recourse to the
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press editorialized (7/2):
"The United States Supreme Court this week re-asserted the power of courts
to review the U.S. government's use of its power to detain people it thinks are
terrorists or irregular fighters. The courts have not yet ordered release of
any of the Bush administration's detained persons, but it has opened a door
that could lead to such release....
Courts may yet find that all these detainees were properly kept in
custody, though no charges have been laid against them and they have been given
no opportunity to challenge the government's evidence before an impartial
tribunal. Because of the Supreme Court's rulings, however, they may now be able
to require the government to lay a charge, produce its evidence and release any
accused who are not found guilty. This should greatly strengthen the moral and
political position of the United States in its international quest for support
in its war against terrorism. Until now, the Bush administration has been
leading a fight for freedom but has, at the same time, denied fundamental
rights to the people it accuses of fighting on the other side. This has
weakened Mr. Bush's and America's claim to be the champion of freedom. The
Supreme Court has corrected that weakness in the American argument."
"Limits To U.S. Detention"
The leading Globe and Mail held (Internet
version, 6/30): "Inescapably, the
insistence on the rule of law is what separates democracies from tyrannies,
even in wartime. U.S. President George
W. Bush has at times been fighting the war on terrorism as if he were above the
law. At an American jail at Guantánamo
Bay, Cuba, and in jails on U.S. soil, his administration has held prisoners for
two years beyond the review of the courts.
This week, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a decision for the
ages, reminded Mr. Bush why democracies expect courts to review the actions of
their leaders.... The question before
the court was the most elemental one a democracy can ask of itself: in defending against terrorists and other
enemies, how far can the president go to strengthen security at the expense of
liberty?... It is true that the stakes
in defending the country are great...and that fighting terror requires
hard-to-obtain intelligence, of which enemy prisoners may be a good source. Even so, Mr. Bush is wrong in his apparent belief
that he can fight terrorism as he sees fit simply because he is on the side of
good and the law is meant to restrain the bad guys. The rule of law matters more than good
intentions, as the abuses at Abu Ghraib...remind us. The judges made that point by invoking not
Abu Ghraib but the Magna Carta, habeas corpus and the U.S. Founding
Fathers.... The Founders knew war and
were certain it would come again, so they insisted on a strong constitution. The reasons, as the judges said, are
"Bush Loses In The Supreme Court And The U.S. Wins"
Leftist Managua daily El Nuevo Diario ran an op-ed signed
by Michael C. Dorf, a professor at Columbia University (7/1): "In two verdicts this week, the U.S.
Supreme Court rejected the enormous power claimed by President Bush during
wartime. In the Yacer Hamdi case, the court rejected the Government's
assumption that the military could hold
a U.S. citizen indefinitely because he was an 'enemy combatant' without giving
him a chance to refute the cause of his detention before an impartial
authority.... In less than four years,
President Bush and his advisors have done away with a great part of the
long-standing bipartisan consensus that the U.S. should cooperate with
multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. The majority of judges in
the Guantanamo case, alarmed by this drastic change, might be trying to say to
the world - in order to keep it calm - President Bush does not speak for every
American, not even those who voted for him to begin with.... Yes, the existence of religious fanatics who
want to kill a large number of innocent U.S. civilians justifies a firm
response, but the Court rulings affirm the fundamental principle that not even
the worst dangers justify the type of general deference to which Bush's
government thinks it has a right to each time he says the words 'war' and
Fourth largest Asuncion daily La Nacion ran a guest column
which lauded the Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo detainees' access to
legal representation and civilian courts (7/4):
"The Supreme Courts had to intervene in order to halt the Executive
Branch's actions. In a decision that
will have historic consequences.... the
Court pronounced that a US citizen captured in Afghanistan has the right to
have a civil court determine if his detention is legal.... the arguments by the Bush Administration that
anyone can be detained indefinitely is pathetic and goes against the principles
on which this country is based."
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO:
"Proper Rebuke For Mr. Bush"
The tabloid style Express newspapers
"....Non-American critics of the Bush administration, of which this
newspaper can be numbered, can sometimes overlook the fact that any incumbent
administration in Washington is but a branch of the government of the United
States.... It may have taken as long as
two years, but the lawyers who took the case to the US Supreme Court have now
been fully vindicated in that the court has ruled Mr. Bush completely out of
order.... Perhaps this latest ruling
will simply remind the Bush administration that war or no war, it cannot simply
abandon the rules of civilised conduct...."