By Rachel Clarke
BBC News Online in Washington
A diverse group of ex-judges, diplomats and former military
lawyers is urging the US Supreme Court to intervene on behalf of
hundreds of men being held without trial by the government.
hope the top court will agree to review the detention of suspected
al-Qaeda and Taleban members in the US military camp at Guantanamo
Bay in Cuba.
Detainees have been given no access to
US officials insist there are reasons for holding the alleged
fighters and say they will get a fair legal hearing in due course.
But opponents say it is already nearly two years since most of
the detainees were captured and they should be afforded more rights
John Gibbons, a former appeals court judge, said justice was
being "totally denied" to the detainees in Guantanamo.
"They don't have access to lawyers; they have had no hearings;
they are just in limbo. That's as clear an example of justice denied
as you can find," he said.
A key issue is that the detainees are foreign citizens being held
on foreign soil and as such may not come under the jurisdiction of
the civil courts.
Mr Gibbons said he found it "repugnant" that the administration
could order the imprisonment of people possibly beyond the reach of
law, especially as he said the US clearly ruled over Guantanamo Bay,
even if it was technically part of Cuba.
said he hoped the Supreme Court would be persuaded to "restore the
rule of law" with the filing of the legal papers by the seven groups
supporting two cases brought concerning 16 detainees, including two
Britons - Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal.
Shafiq Rasul is among the Britons held at the
There is no compulsion for the US Supreme Court to review the
cases, but Mr Gibbons said he was optimistic that the support needed
from four of the nine justices would be forthcoming.
Don Guter, the US navy's judge advocate general until last year,
said extreme measures were necessary after the 11 September 2001
attacks on the United States.
But Mr Guter, who was inside the Pentagon when it was
deliberately hit by a hijacked plane that day, said it was not
acceptable simply to hold suspected al-Qaeda or Taleban members
until the US' war on terror was over.
Such a victory might never come he said, and even if there was no
public outcry about the treatment of Guantanamo detainees the US
should permit them various rights, not least to stop possible
filed to the Supreme Court by Mr Guter and other former military
lawyers said: "The lives of American military forces may well be
endangered by the United States' failure to grant foreign prisoners
in its custody the same rights that the United States insists be
accorded to American prisoners held by foreigners."
The US has the might, but not the right, the
That view was backed by ex-prisoners-of-war, some of whom told
the Supreme Court they believed they owed their lives to the fact
that their captors abided by the Geneva Conventions designed to
protect captured soldiers.
William Rogers, a former undersecretary of state, said there was
concern that the situation in Guantanamo would take the US from the
moral high ground where it could be a role model to other nations to
a much lower position.
He and 18 former US diplomats, including 11 ambassadors, filed
their own papers which said: "The perception of this case abroad -
that the power of the United States can be exercised outside the law
and even, it is presumed , in conflict with the law - will diminish
our stature in the wider world."