Guantanamo detainees and legal aid

With controversies surrounding the operations of the facility, there have been strong voices for its closure. The Supreme Court had in Rasul v Bush in 2004, held that foreign nationals in Guantanamo should be provided access to the US courts to challenge the legality of their detention. A couple of years later the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v Rumsfeld that Guantanamo detainees have the rights under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which guaranteed trial requirements and fundamental treatments.

However the Congress, by enacting the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, stripped the detainees their right to access to the courts. Violation of fundamental rights have been evident. Between 2002 and 2003, interrogation methods violating international norms were authorized by the then Secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. These methods included hooding, denying religious items, stripping prisoners, scaring detainees by the use of dogs etc.

Such acts have been confirmed by government documents and first hand account of released prisoners (Human Rights First). It was at the end of 2005, when President Bush signed the Detainee Treatment Act which sought to ban torture and cruelty in the interrogation methods employed at Guantanamo. It emphasized on the guidelines issued in the Army manual for interrogation as the standards to be adopted for Guantanamo.

The government responded to the Supreme Court directions and set up the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) and the Administrative Review Board (ARB). The hearings for the Tribunals are based on the rules drawn up by the Pentagon. Human rights activists had found several lapses in the functioning of these tribunals like allowing of evidence gathered under torture, not allowing prisoners access to evidence against them, not giving access to counsel, etc.