Guantánamo prisoners challenge indefinite detention

Lawyers representing eight long-term detainees at Guantánamo Bay argued in federal court yesterday that the US government cannot continue to detain the prisoners there indefinitely, immune to judicial review.

The mass habeas corpus motion, filed on the men’s behalf by Reprieve, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other counsel, argues that their indefinite detention, based on President Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will not release anyone from Guantánamo, is arbitrary and unlawful.

Reprieve represents four of the petitioners, including two men, Towfiq al Bihani and Abdullatif Nasser, who have been cleared for transfer by US defence and security agencies, but remain imprisoned.

Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who acts as legal counsel for Reprieve’s seven Guantánamo clients, said: “Keeping these men behind bars forever, when the government’s own investigators have determined that they committed no crime and pose no threat, is a shocking violation of the USA’s founding principles.”

“Guantánamo Bay is a global symbol of injustice, and a recruitment tool for America’s enemies. It has made us less safe, at huge expense to taxpayers, while doing lasting damage to the USA’s reputation as a beacon for fairness and liberty.”

CCR’s legal director, Baher Azmy, argued the case in court.

“Our dangerous experiment in indefinite detention, after sixteen years, has run its course,” he said. “Due process of law does not permit the arbitrary detention of individuals, particularly at the hands of a president like Donald Trump, who has pledged to prevent any releases from Guantánamo.“

Reprieve client Abdulmalik Bajabu is also among the petitioners. He has been held without trial at Guantánamo Bay since 2007. In his last phone call with Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, he expressed hope that he will eventually be released.

“In Guantánamo there are not any rights. Might is right. The administration has power and you can do nothing. But people in America are good people—they don’t know what is going on in GTMO,” he said.