WASHINGTON—Today the Department of Justice asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the Guantanamo Bay detainee habeas corpus cases pending before it. This action is in accordance with both the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upholding the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) and directing that such cases be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and the recent decision of the Supreme Court to deny certiorari in those cases. The Court of Appeals decision reaffirmed the validity of the framework that Congress established in the MCA permitting Guantanamo detainees to bring suit in the D.C. Circuit. That decision and the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari make clear that the locus of litigation should now be the D.C. Circuit. All detainees, regardless of the status of any district court habeas case that might have been filed on their behalf, may file an action in the D.C. Circuit and avail themselves of the judicial review afforded by Congress in the MCA. As detainees choose to take advantage of this avenue of review, we will respond to such challenges in the D.C. Circuit.
In recognition of the appropriateness of continued access to detainees by counsel for purposes of the D.C. Circuit litigation, the request for dismissal of the habeas cases does not mean that counsel visits with detainees will come to an end. The Department of Defense will continue to permit previously scheduled counsel visits to occur during a reasonable transition period, and the Department has already proposed a protective order under which counsel visits are allowed as to claims filed in the D.C. Circuit under the MCA. Moving forward, priority will be given to counsel for detainees pursuing litigation in the Court of Appeals.
The judicial review afforded to Guantanamo detainees under the MCA and the counsel access allowed by the Department of Defense is unprecedented in its breadth. No other captured enemy combatants in the history of this country, or any other, have enjoyed such privileges in wartime. The Department will continue to give effect to the judicial review procedures established by Congress to permit detainees to challenge their wartime detentions in the manner intended by Congress.