In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration for forming military tribunals to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In a five to three ruling, the court said the military tribunals violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.
The impact of the case is expected to go well beyond Guantanamo as the justices ruled that the so-called war on terror must be fought under international rules. Legal experts say the ruling challenges the Bush administration’s legal defense of harsh interrogation methods, the CIA’s secret prisons and the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program. The court ruled that the Geneva Convention must apply to detainees captured in the war on terror. [The Los Angeles Times reported “The real blockbuster in the Hamdan decision is the court’s holding that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict with Al Qaeda — a holding that makes high-ranking Bush administration officials potentially subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act.”] In Thursday’s ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote “the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction.”
The New York Times called the decision a “historic event, a defining moment in the ever-shifting balance of power.” Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Voting in favor of the military tribunals were three justices: Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. For the first time in his 15 years on the court Thomas read part of his dissent from the bench. He said the court’s decision would 'sorely hamper the president's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy.’” Chief Justice John Roberts abstained from the case because he had ruled on the case in favor of the military tribunals when he served as a federal judge. Unknown at the time of that ruling was that Roberts was already being interviewed by the White House for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Human rights groups around the world hailed Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling. This is British attorney Clive Stafford Smith who represents several detainees at Guantanamo.
Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip has entered its third day as Israel attempted to recover a captured soldier. Overnight Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza more than 30 times. One Israeli bomb hit the Palestinian Interior Ministry office in Gaza City and set it ablaze.
Israeli shells also hit the electricity distribution network in northern Gaza. This came just two days after Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza’s main power station leaving much of Gaza without power. The United Nations is warning Gaza is three days away from a deadly humanitarian crisis unless Israel promptly restores fuel and electricity. According to the newspaper, Haaretz, Israel has not allowed fuel to flow into Gaza for four days. Many Gaza residents are now without clean water because they rely on electricity to pump water. The UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said military action targeting innocent civilians violates international humanitarian law. Israel is also coming under increasing criticism for its decision to seize at least 64 Hamas lawmakers including the Palestinian Foreign Minister. One third of the Palestinian cabinet is now being detained by Israel.
But Israel has defended the move.
Earlier today Israel revoked the Jerusalem residency rights of four Hamas officials.
In Iraq, a top Sunni leader with ties to leading insurgent groups says rebels have rejected Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s national reconciliation plan. They rejected it because it fails to offer a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Romania has become the latest country to announce it is planning to withdraw its troops from Iraq. In a surprise move, Romania’s Prime Minister ordered the removal of all of its eight hundred ninety troops. He cited the “human and financial cost” of the war. 10 days ago Japan announced plans to pull its six hundred troops out of Iraq within weeks. Italy has already said it will remove its troops by year’s end. Spain, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Honduras have already pulled out.
A new poll of one hundred leading counter-terrorism and national security experts has found that 84 percent believe the U.S. is not winning the war on terror. And 87 percent of the experts said the war in Iraq is hurting the global antiterrorism campaign. The poll was conducted by the magazine Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress. One former CIA official who described himself as a conservative Republican, said the war in Iraq has provided global terrorist groups with a recruiting bonanza and a valuable training ground.
In Washington, President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi warned North Korea not to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile. President Bush met with Koizumi at the White House on Thursday. President Bush: The North Korean issue is one, obviously, that’s got everybody’s attention now. And we discussed this issue in length. We both agreed that it’s very important for us to remain united in sending a clear message to the North Korean leader that, first of all, launching the missile is unacceptable. Today President Bush and the Japanese Prime Minister are heading to Elvis Presley’s home at Graceland. International pressure has been mounting on North Korea ever since the New York Times reported on its front page two weeks ago that North Korea’s long range missiles were fueled and ready to take off. The report was based on unnamed American officials. But now the Times appears to be backing off from it is original reporting. Earlier this week the paper ran an article on page A9 quoting an unnamed official admitting that it is actually impossible to even know if North Korea has fueled the missile since the missile is inside a closed container.
On Capitol Hill, the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed a resolution condemning news organizations for reporting on classified information that the government wants to keep secret. The vote came less than a week after the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal revealed the U.S. Treasury Department was secretly monitoring international bank transactions. The resolution’s co-sponsor Ohio Republican Mike Oxley said the government “expects the cooperation of all news media” as it fights the so-called war on terror. Democrat Maurice Hinchey of New York accused his Republican counterparts of trying to intimidate the press. Meanwhile House Republican J.D. Hayworth of Arizona has collected the signatures of 70 House members to call for the media credentials of the New York Times to be revoked.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a new international treaty to ban states from abducting individuals and hiding them in secret prisons or killing them. The treaty — which still has to be approved by the UN General Assembly — would require nations to keep registers of detainees and tell their families the truth about their disappearance. The United States is not expected to ratify the pact, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
And a coalition of advocacy groups are suing the federal government in effort to challenge a new law that requires all Medicaid recipients to prove their citizenship or lose their benefits or long-term care. The rule goes into effect tomorrow. Critics fear millions of U.S. citizens may not be able to produce the necessary paperwork. Most affected might be elderly African Americans who were born in the rural South at a time when many black women were barred from maternity wards.