From the New York Times:
The Supreme Court today delivered a sweeping rebuke to the Bush administration, ruling that the military tribunals it created to try terror suspects violate both American military law and the Geneva Conventions…
From the SCOTUS Blog:
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Congress did not take away the Court’s authority to rule on the military commissions’ validity, and then went ahead to rule that President Bush did not have authority to set up the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and found the commissions illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention. In addition, the Court concluded that the commissions were not authorized when Congress enacted the post-9/1l resolution authorizing a response to the terrorist attacks, and were not authorized by last year’s Detainee Treatment Act. The vote against the commissions and on the Court’s jurisdiction was 5-3, with the Chief Justice not taking part…
You can find a PDF of the Supreme Court decision here, if you’d like to read it yourself.
Most of it’s lost on me, but, judging from what I’m reading, the critical thing seems to be that the Court has upheld that Common Article III of the Geneva Convention, despite what the administration has claimed, applies to our current conflict with Al Qaeda.
Here’s a clip from Article III:
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
The decision was 5-3, with Roberts having recused himself, having already decided on the case while serving on a lower court. (He decided in favor of the President at that time.) Unsurprisingly, the three Justices to side with the administration were Alito, Scalia and Thomas.
So, the question now is, “How will the President respond?” If he continues, one would think there would certainly be grounds for impeachment, but perhaps Rove and Cheney have a plan.
The response from the Right has been swift and predictable. Senator Trent Lott came out and announced that this decision would have our enemies laughing at us. Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissenting opinion, claimed that Justice Stevens’ vote illustrated an “unfamiliarity with the realities of war.” Of course, Thomas has never served in the armed service, whereas Stevens served in the Navy for three years during WWII, but that, I suppose, is neither here nor there. And, Tony Snow, the Whitehouse spokesperson, flat-out lied and said that it had never been the goal of this administration to increase Executive power.
On that note, I’d like to put in a plug for the ACLU, which is making copies of the DVD “Stop the Abuse of Power,” freely available to anyone willing to host a viewing of it at their house. I haven’t seen it yet, but supposedly it makes the Constitutional case against the Bush administration in pretty clear terms – focusing on the torture of prisoners, the denial of due process, and the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Ordering a copy might be a good way to celebrate today’s decision, and keep the conversation going.
(It should be pointed out that everything didn’t go well at the Supreme Court today. In addition to coming down against the administration in this case, the Justices also found the extreme gerrymandering done by Texas Republicans to be legal.)