Saturday, July 29, 2006

Guantanamo Bay detainees

The following is taken from an editorial in the July 20 issue of Catholic New York, the newspaper of the archdiocese of New York. The entire editorial is here.
The recent Supreme Court decision about Guantanamo Bay detainees was strong and clear on two important points-that the Bush administration had overstepped its authority in ordering that the detainees be tried by military commissions, and that the detainees were entitled to the basic human rights and legal protections covered under the Geneva Conventions.

The court did not, however, take the next step. The decision provided no road map for handling the fates of the 450 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (only 10 of whom have officially been accused of war crimes, and none of whom has been tried), and the estimated 550 other detainees held in U.S. custody around the world.

That leaves the question of how to handle these 1,000 people, most of them al-Qaeda or Taliban terrorism suspects captured by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. And it's a question that will have to be answered by Congress-which could give the president authority to establish the military commissions he wanted and risk another Supreme Court intervention, or authorize a trial mechanism that would more closely follow the military court-martial system with its broader defendants' rights. It's not an easy call.