Guantanamo Reax: Court Ruling a Victory For U.S. Ideals
The Daily Telegraph, a conservative paper in England, cast the story of the Supreme Court's Guantanamo decision in in quintessentially American terms: One good man takes on the "Powers That Be" and wins.
Call it, Mr. Swift goes to Washington.
"Lt Cdr Charles Swift, 44, an experienced military defence attorney, was expected to draft a simple plea bargain after prosecutors requested the appointment of a lawyer to represent Osama bin -Laden's driver in 2003," the Telegraph reported. "Instead, he launched a series of ground-breaking legal challenges that ended with the ruling by America's highest court that the military commissions backed by Mr Bush for international terrorism suspects were unlawful."
The global commentariat is impressed with Swift's courtroom victory in U.S. v. Hamdan.
"America won," said Il Giornale, a right-wing Italian paper. "Rule of Law," triumphs," said The Peninsula in Bahrain. "Now is the time to end Guantanamo," said Uganda's New Vision. It was, said Spiegel Online, "A Grand Day for Democracy".
"Ask yourself if in any other country outside the liberal democratic West it could have happened that the highest constitutional court ruled against the decisions of the extremely powerful head of the Executive branch at the request of a terrorist prisoner who has sworn to destroy the nation," said Il Giornale.
The consensus was that the court's ruling was a victory for American law, international law, and the image of the United States.
The British reaction focused on the court's defense of the Constitution. The Daily Telegraph, which supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 but now calls for withdrawal of British forces, called the decision "a salutary check on an administration that has become arrogant in its disregard for justice." (Reprinted here in South Africa's Business Day.)
"What happened last week was the return of constitutional order," said British expatriate Andrew Sullivan in The Times of London. "The court insisted that the president needed legislative backing for prosecuting terrorists and that he was bound by the laws of warfare passed by Congress. The farcical military tribunals at Gitmo were more suited to a banana republic than the US -- and they had to be scrapped. Torture is illegal in America -- and the president has no authority to say otherwise. What we saw last week, in other words, was the end of a potential rival regime to constitutional government in America."
The French and German press emphasized the court's ruling that the Bush administration had to follow the Geneva Convention standards in treatment of enemy non-combatants.
Le Monde (in French) said the court had "snubbed" the Bush White House with its message that the military code of justice and the Geneva convention govern the rules of war.
The conservative German daily Die Welt, said, "The incarceration of the fighters is not illegal per se," but the Bush administration "must recognize the Geneva minimum standards and have transparent legal consequences according to US law."
The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung hailed the judges' criticism of the U.S. neglect of the Geneva Convention, "for which Bush and his people ... have at best a sneer, and absolutely no respect. Now they will have to acknowledge that their own Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of such an international treaty."
The left-wing DieTageszeitung remains unconvinced that the Bush administration will submit to the Supreme Court's authority, warning "If the government still tries to -- quite possibly successfully -- bypass the judicial rulings, then the basic understanding of the constitutional state in the US would suffer."
Voices From the Muslim World
Arab and Islamic reaction was less strong but generally positive.
The Khaleej Times, one of Middle East news sites most sympathetic to U.S. foreign policy, said "The loud sigh of relief in and outside the US that greeted the court decision goes to underscore the growing concerns over America's gulag around the world."
The court's "reasonably clear message to the commander-in-chief is that he cannot literally do anything he pleases, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the US Constitution," says the Pakistani daily Dawn.
The Arab News warned the decision might be a "meaningless victory.
"The ruling is simply about the powers of the president. President Bush can therefore quite easily obtain the appropriate authority. All he has to do is ask Congress to change the law," said the editors of the Riyahd daily.
The "real victory" for the detainees and U.S. justice, say the editors of the Riyadh news site, "is the Supreme Court's decision, as part of its ruling, that the Geneva Conventions apply to the detainees. ... It opens the door to what could be a tidal wave of challenges to Guantanamo Bay -- on the treatment of prisoners under the Geneva Conventions and allegations of torture -- none of which the White House will be able to prevent."
Zayn Abidin Rikabi, columnist for the Arab daily Al Sharq Alawsat, said the decision showed American ideals to be admirable but selective. "There is no doubt that the great decision of the US Supreme Court translates the true philosophy of America, America the early model of the struggle for freedom and independence," he said.
But in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, America has abandoned its early ideals.
"What is the United States' connection with the starving, repression, destruction, and humiliation of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation army? The connection is close: functional and practical. Had it not been for the United States' absolute defense of the Israelis' falsehood and tyranny the leaders of Israel would not have embarked on such savage actions. But what is the interest of the United States -- or the real America -- in supporting an aggression similar to the one it had fiercely, resolutely, and proudly resisted more than 230 years ago?"
In Malaysia, Yeo Yang Poh, president of the Malaysian bar, wrote in the New Straits Times that local judges should follow the U.S. court's example.
"Malaysia rightly condemns what is taking place in Guantanamo Bay, where detainees are held on the basis of suspicion and are not given the usual due process of the courts. However, what we are doing in our own country in relation to persons detained without trial is no different. On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court ruled against the United States Government's action at Guantanamo Bay, showing that their judiciary remains independent and vigilant. We must follow suit."
Status Quo For Detainees
Spiegel Online cautions that nothing will change soon for the 450 detainees at the prison facility in the U.S. enclave on the south coast of Cuba.
Lt. Commander Swift told the Telegraph that he had spoken to Afghan-born Hamdan on Thursday afternoon and told him of the ruling through an interpreter.
"I think he was awe-struck that the court would rule for him and give a little man like him an equal chance," he said. "Where he's from, that's not the case."
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