The U.S. has created a “lawless enclave” at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba where 600 men from 44 countries are being held without access to American courts, John Gibbons, an attorney for the men, told the Supreme Court today, reports the Associated Press. Gibbons said “it’s been plain for 215 years” that people in federal detention may file petitions in U.S. courts. Most of the prisoners were apprehended during the fighting that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The first major recent terror-related case to reach the high court is expected to resolve whether foreign-born prisoners picked up overseas and held outside U.S. borders can use American courts.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist asked how a judge in Washington is to deal with a case from Cuba. “No other law applies there. Cuban law doesn’t apply there,” Gibbons said. Justice Antonin Scalia said that if the courts are opened to cases from foreign combatants, battlefield detainees would try to use American courts.