June 29 This day during American History

June 29, 2006 – Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President George W. Bush’s plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military tribunals violates U.S. and international law. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay lack “the power to proceed because its structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.” Specifically, the ruling says that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was violated. The case considered whether the United States Congress may pass legislation preventing the Supreme Court from hearing the case of an accused combatant before his military commission takes place, whether the special military commissions that had been set up violated federal law (including the Uniform Code of Military Justice and treaty obligations), and whether courts can enforce the articles of the 1949 Geneva Convention. An unusual aspect of the case was an amicus brief filed by Senators Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham, which presented an “extensive colloquy” added to the Congressional record as evidence that “Congress was aware” that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 would strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to hear cases brought by the Guantanamo detainees. Because these statements were not included in the December 21 debate at the time, Emily Bazelon of Slate magazine has argued their brief was an attempt to mislead the court. On June 29, 2006, the Court issued a 5-3 decision holding that it had jurisdiction, that the administration did not have authority to set up these particular military commissions without congressional authorization, because they did not comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention (which the court found to be incorporated into the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

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