Supreme Court Won't Hear Guantanamo Prisoners' Challenge to Military Commissions

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the case of two Guantanamo Bay prisoners who want to challenge the legality of military commissions.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan and Omar Khadr face commission trials — Hamdan for acting as a driver and bodyguard for Usama bin Laden, and Khadr for throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Green Beret soldier.

Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer would have granted the request to hear the case, the court said in turning it down. It takes four votes, though, to hear a case.

The court's action follows its April 2 decision not to step into related aspects of the legal battle regarding other Guantanamo Bay detainees. The issue there is whether the prisoners may go to federal court to challenge their confinement.

Click here to read the charges against Hamdan (FindLaw pdf)

Click here to read the charges against Khadr (FindLaw pdf)

It was Hamdan's military commission case that led to a repudiation of the Bush administration last year in the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Hamdan, declaring President Bush's system of military commission trials violated U.S. and international law.

Subsequently, the Bush administration and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill pushed through a law reconstituting the military commissions, giving them the congressional imprimatur that had been missing from the earlier system created by executive order.

Lawyers for Hamdan and Khadr had been seeking to challenge the new system, saying it is identical in most respects to the old one the court rejected a year ago. Coerced testimony is allowed, lawyers for the two men said in a filing asking the court to take the case.

In its 2006 decision, the Supreme Court said Hamdan could invoke rights secured by the Geneva Conventions. Yet the new Military Commissions Act states that no one subject to such trials "may invoke Geneva Conventions as a source of rights," lawyers for Hamdan and Khadr noted in court papers

The case is Hamdan v. Gates and Khadr v. Bush, 06-1169.