WASHINGTON — A Kuwaiti at Guantanamo Bay prison camp has appealed to the US Supreme Court to protest federal court interpretations of detainees' right to contest their detention.
Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al-Odah has been locked up almost nine years at the US naval base prison in southeastern Cuba, his lawyers said in their petition received by AFP Wednesday.
He is the first to appeal to the US Supreme Court, after exhausting all other venues, since the high court ruled in 2008 that Guantanamo inmates have the same habeas corpus right as US prisoners to ask federal authorities to justify their detention.
In his petition, al-Odah argues that "courts ... have also applied a burden of proof lower than any ever approved by this Court in a case involving prolonged imprisonment, allowing the government to justify indefinite detention by a mere preponderance of the evidence, rather than by clear and convincing evidence."
Indeed "both the District Court and the Court of Appeals have... allowed the indiscriminate admission of hearsay, denying the detainees any meaningful opportunity to test the reliability of statements made against them," he added.
When the court made its ruling it was seen as a victory by many human rights groups over the way the administration of former president George W. Bush waged its war on terror.
Bush's government locked up enemy combatants in Cuba arguing that the rights afforded under the US Constitution would not be interpreted as extending there.
Since that right was confirmed for Guantanamo inmates in 2008, federal courts have found that detention was illegal in the cases of 38 prisoners and legal in the cases of 17 others.
Al-Odah has questioned procedural points common to Guantanamo prisoner cases including whether prosecutors can use hearsay in a habeas case that could involve life-imprisonment; and he sought clarification on a definition for a minimum standard for allowing indefinite imprisonment.
In July an appeals court tried to lower the standard.
"The result of these procedures are habeas hearings that lack meaningful, rigorous standards by which to admit evidence and make ultimate factual determinations," his request reads in part.
The US Supreme Court will decide in coming months whether it will hear the case. If it does, it should rule before mid-2011.
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