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U.S. Court Orders Bush Administration to Grant Guantanamo Detainee Access to Attorney

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While Justice Department Focuses on Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court, Another Judge Enters Guantánamo Debate and Concludes Current Policy Would Render Detainee’s “Right to Counsel Meaningless”

A U.S. District Court has ordered the Department of Defense to grant a Guantánamo detainee access to his attorney, ruling against the Bush Administration’s effort to deny him counsel for months while higher courts interpret legislation on detainees’ legal rights.  The judge concluded such efforts could render the detainee’s “right to counsel meaningless.”  The Bush Administration has blocked more than half of detainees from meeting with their attorneys.

The ruling in Adem v. Bush was filed on Tuesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay, who is overseeing the case with Judge Richard W. Roberts, and Adem's attorneys completed their analysis of it today.  The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which currently oversees 450 pro-bono attorneys representing the detainees, applauded it as an important protection of due process.
 
"This court is telling the Bush Administration to stop stonewalling justice.  The Supreme Court already ruled that detainees have a right to representation, but the Bush Administration has tried to delay and block attorneys from meeting with clients.  This week's ruling is another setback to the Administration's unconstitutional use of mass detainment to deny rights and shirk oversight by the other branches of American government," said Barbara Olshansky, CCR Deputy Legal Director.  Ms. Olshansky also noted that the Bush Administration has prevented CCR from meeting with about 270 of its clients at Guantánamo.
 
The following is an excerpt from the ruling:
 
"It appears that attempts to inform detainees of their rights in writing have been, at best,
fraught with difficulty. Furthermore, the Protective Order clearly provides that counsel for Adem may meet with him twice before they are obliged to provide evidence of authority to represent him. Considering the lack of any possible prejudice to the Government from allowing Adem to confirm his desire for representation in person rather than in writing and weighing the importance of Adem's right to counsel, which he has been attempting to exercise for over a year, Respondents are ordered to comply with the Protective Order and allow Adem's counsel to meet with him in person as soon as possible."
 
According to recent estimates, the government is currently detaining about 490 prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.