Boumediene v. Bush/Al Odah v. United States

Boumediene v. Bush is the name given to a consolidation of cases brought to challenge new attempts to prevent the men detained at Guantanamo from exercising the rights the Supreme Court had recognized in CCR’s landmark case, Rasul v. Bush.  On June 28, 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court had held that the nearly 600 men then imprisoned at Guantánamo had the right to challenge their detention and conditions of confinement. In response, the government established the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) for the purpose of determining whether a detainee had properly been designated as an “enemy combatant,” (itself a term with no proper legal meaning designed in an attempt to circumvent the legal protections for  prisoners of war). Congress then enacted the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA) and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which attempted to strip classes of non-citizens of their rights to bring certain challenges in federal court.

The consolidated cases Boumediene v. Bush, brought by co-counsel, and Al Odah v. United States, brought by CCR with co-counsel, challenged all of these attempts to undermine the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rasul. We sought Supreme Court review, but on April 2, 2007, the Court declined to hear the case. On June 29, 2007, in a highly unusual action, the Supreme Court reversed its decision and agreed to hear the case in its 2007-2008 term the following fall.

Showing how much the conversation had shifted from the early days of Rasul, over 20 amicus briefs supporting the rights of the detained men were filed in the case— from retired military officers, retired federal judges, former U.S. diplomats, a sitting Republican U.S. Senator, Canadian, British and European Parliamentarians, the American Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, law professors and legal historians, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), and domestic and international non-governmental organizations.

The Supreme Court heard Boumediene and Al Odah on December 5, 2007, and on July 12, 2008, ruled 5-4 in favor of the detainees, holding, first, that the detainees at Guantanamo have a constitutional right to habeas relief and, second, that the review process under the Detainee Treatment Act was not an adequate substitute for full habeas review. It was CCR’s second major win in the Supreme Court on the Guantanamo cases and explicitly established the right of the men held at the base to challenge their detention in federal court.