Gitmo Trials Struck Down

In a blow to the Bush Administration, the United States Supreme Court just handed down its decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. By a 5-3 majority, the court struck down the military tribunals system, holding the tribunals inconsistent with military law and the Geneva Conventions.

The majority decision was written by Justice Stevens, with strong dissents from Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia and Justice Alito. Since the Chief Justice had been involved in the Hamdan case lower down, he did not sit.

The case raised core constitutional principles involving the separation of powers as well as the applicability of fundamental constitutional rights in a war on terror situation, as well as:

whether Congress and the executive could strip the federal courts and the Supreme Court of jurisdiction.

Whether the Bush administration had the authority to lock up individuals under claims of wartime power, without benefit of traditional protections such as a jury trial, the right to cross-examine one’s accusers and the right to appeal.

Whether international treaties — specifically the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war — applied to provide limits to the government’s treatment of those deemed enemy combatants.


  1. Ah, you got there seconds ahead of me. Good thing I read Slaw before I post…

  2. Now the serious commentaries start: the best one I’ve seen so far is “The Impact of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld” on the Council of Foreign Relations site and on the separation of powers, and the restoration of Congress’ powers (despite the John Yoo / Alberto Gonzales assertions.Well summarized in the New Yorker) in a Herald-Tribune piece
    Oddly enough half way into the second term, the classic position is still on the DOJ website in a 1996 memo.

  3. Findlaw this morning – The Hidden–and Obvious–Lessons in the Supreme Court’s Divided Ruling Invalidating Military Commissions