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Supreme Court rejects Guantánamo detainees' appeals for better protections

The appeals of three Guantánamo detainees are among the first dealing with this issue to emerge from the Washington federal appeals court. The Supreme Court refused the cases without comment.

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The entrance to Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay is seen on Oct. 24, 2010.

Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press/AP/File

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The US Supreme Court refused on Monday to take up three cases examining whether the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has struck the proper balance while deciding whether terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay are being lawfully detained or must be released.

The action, announced without comment, is a victory for government lawyers and the Obama administration, which has aggressively sought to limit the rights and protections available to Guantánamo detainees.

At the same time, the high-court action is a major setback for many detainees at Guantánamo and the small army of volunteer lawyers who have worked for years to expand the rights and protections of detainees.

In 2008, the Supreme Court established for the first time in a case called Boumediene v. Bush that Guantánamo detainees enjoy a constitutional right to challenge the legality of their detention by filing habeas corpus petitions in federal court. But the justices left it to the lower courts to establish which legal standards and procedures should apply in such cases.

The three rejected appeals – Al-Bihani v. Obama (10-7814), Al Odah v. US (10-439), and Awad v. Obama (10-736) – are among the first cases to emerge from the federal appeals court. They offered the Supreme Court justices an opportunity to assess whether the lower courts have struck the proper balance.

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