Appellate Court Denies Access to Courts and Lawyers for Guantanamo Detainees

IMPORTANT: The full content of this page is available to premium users only.

Thursday, May 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On March 11, 2003, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the decision that the 650 suspected terrorists and Taliban members held at a U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have no legal rights in the U.S. and. have no right to access to courts to review their detentions. In August 2002, U.S. District Judge Kolar-Kotelly dismissed the detainees case, finding that Guantanamo Bay is out of U.S. territory and hence the detainees were precluded from claiming the rights and protections of the U.S. Constitution and laws. The court also disagreed with the detainees that the Eisentrager opinion interchanged “territorial jurisdiction” with “sovereignty,” without attaching any particular significance to either term. The majority opinion focused on the issue of whether the detainees are within any territory over which the U.S. is sovereign, finding that, notwithstanding the control of the U.S. of Guantanamo Bay, it did not have sovereignty. Instead the opinion found that Cuba, rather than the U.S., has sovereignty and the U.S. only has a lease.