A timeline of legal developments surrounding U.S.-held foreign prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:
Nov. 13. 2001: President Bush signs an Executive Order authorizing the secretary of defense to hold non-U.S. citizens in indefinite detention.
Dec. 27, 2001: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirms that the Pentagon will move war-on-terror detainees from Afghanistan to the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "the least worst place" to hold them.
Jan. 11, 2002: The U.S. military sends 20 prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, a figure that would swell to 750 men and teenaged boys in the course of three years.
Jan. 19, 2002: Some clergy and law professors led by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark file a habeas corpus petition for Guantanamo detainees; it is dismissed because no petitioner is a captive's kin.
Feb. 7, 2002: President Bush issues a directive defining Taliban and al-Qaida captives as "unlawful combatants," not prisoners of war.
Feb. 19, 2002: Empowered by family members, The Center for Constitutional Rights files a habeas petition in federal court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Guantanamo detainees David Hicks of Australia and Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal of Britain.
March 18, 2002: U.S. government asks the court to dismiss Rasul v. Bush, saying Guantanamo is not U.S. jurisdiction.
April 5, 2002: U.S. officials discover detainee Yaser Esam Hamdi, thought to be a Saudi, was born in Louisiana, and swiftly evacuate him from Guantanamo Bay to stave off federal court intrusion into the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
June 11, 2002: Hamdi, now held without access to an attorney at a Navy Brig in Norfolk, Va., files a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The government replies that President Bush's war powers give him authority that extends beyond judicial review to detain him indefinitely and to deny him access to counsel and the courts.
Aug. 8, 2002: U.S. District Court dismisses Rasul v. Bush, saying Guantanamo detainees cannot file habeas corpus petitions because they are non-U.S. citizens detained outside U.S. jurisdiction.
March 11, 2003: U.S. Court of Appeals rejects appeal of Rasul v. Bush, setting the stage for a U.S. Supreme Court confrontation.
Nov. 10, 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Rasul v. Bush.
Feb. 13, 2004: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tells the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce that prisoners are not being tortured or otherwise mistreated at Guantanamo Bay.
March 9, 2004: Pentagon sends four Guantanamo prisoners to Britain, including Rasul and Iqbal, who are detained for a day and set free; the issue of whether Guantanamo detainees can sue is still bound for the Supreme Court.
April 20, 2004: Former Philadelphia federal judge John Gibbons, 79, a Nixon appointee, argues at the Supreme Court that Guantanamo is U.S. jurisdiction and foreign detainees have right to file habeas petitions on behalf of the detainees. He is joined in written briefs by a former Japanese-American internee, former judges and military lawyers, retired diplomats and civil liberties professors.
May 14, 2004: Freed Britons Rasul and Iqbal write an open letter to President Bush declaring that U.S. soldiers abused and humiliated them at Guantanamo Bay. They said guards used strobe lights, dogs and loud rap music to extract information.
June 28, 2004: The Supreme Court rules 6-3 that Guantanamo detainees can challenge their captivity in federal courts. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissent. In a related case, the court also says Hamdi can be held as an enemy combatant but he, too, may challenge his detention in U.S. courts.
July 1, 2004: Civilian habeas corpus lawyers write Secretary Rumsfeld seeking to meet their clients at Guantanamo Bay.
July 30, 2004: In a bid to mollify the Supreme Court and create a substitution to challenge at the federal courts, the Pentagon creates military panels of officers to review each detainee's "enemy combatant" status on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers are banned from the so-called Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs).
Aug. 24, 2004: The Pentagon convenes its first ever Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay. Five U.S. military officers, only one an ex-lawyer, formally charge four of the 550 or so captives with war crimes, using rules written by the Defense Department rather than charge them in federal courts.
Aug. 30, 2004: The Pentagon permits the first civilian lawyer—Gita Gutierrez of a Newark, N.J., firm—to meet a Guantanamo detainee filing a habeas suit. Gutierrez sees British detainees Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abassi, who have since been sent home.
Oct. 20, 2004: U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly orders Pentagon to stop intelligence eavesdropping of lawyer-client conversations at Guantanamo, calling lawyer-client privacy a "bedrock" American principle.
Nov. 8, 2004: U.S. District Judge James Robertson orders the Pentagon to halt the war crimes trial of alleged a Yemeni who worked as Osama bin Laden's driver, saying the Military Commissions are flawed and likewise calls the Pentagon's Combatant Status Review Tribunals an inadequate, non-judicial alternative to habeas proceedings in federal courts.
Dec. 17, 2004: Pentagon notifies Guantanamo detainees that they can sue for their freedom in a U.S. court, distributing the court's Washington, D.C., address to detainees for the first time.
Jan. 19, 2005: U.S. District Judge Richard Leon dismisses seven Guantanamo prisoners' habeas petitions, ruling that President Bush's wartime powers permit the Pentagon to hold enemy combatants and review the detentions on their own.
Jan. 31, 2005: U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green rules the opposite of Leon, saying Guantanamo Bay captives can sue for their freedom, and specifically citing torture allegations and criticizes the CSRTs as fundamentally flawed. The stage is set for a U.S. Court of Appeals decision and likely later review by the Supreme Court.
May 3, 2005: The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., places on his docket the first 16 of what would become dozens of habeas corpus suits by captives who, through military contract linguists, wrote one-page letters to the court, from behind the razor wire at Camp Delta. Even though many of the captives are illiterate Afghanis, they are listed as pro se, or self-representation cases, because they wrote the court directly, without attorneys.
July 15, 2005: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld President Bush's war powers to create a Military Commission to try Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 35, of Yemen, overturning Judge Robertson's Nov. 8 order.
July 18, 2005: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says at press appearance with Australian Prime Minister John Howard that the war crimes trials of Hamdan and Hicks will resume soon.
Nov. 7, 2005: The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will hear Hamdan v Rumsfeld, and decided it with the new Chief Justice John Roberts abstaining from the discussion.
Nov. 10, 2005: The U.S. Senate votes 49-42 to adopt a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that strips Guantanamo detainees of the right to file habeas petitions, a proposal that goes next to the House and then for President Bush's signature.
Nov. 14, 2005: Judge Kollar-Kotelly blocks the Pentagon from resuming Hicks' Military Commission until Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality in Hamdan v Rumsfeld.
March 28, 2006: The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments as it grappled with whether the Pentagon's plan to try Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, before a special Military Commission violates international law and the U.S. Constitution. A decision is expected soon.
May 10, 2006: Britain's attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, calls the Guantanamo camp's existence unacceptable. "It is time in my view that it should close. . . ," he said in a speech. "The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, of liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol."
May 15, 2006: The Pentagon releases to the Associated Press the first list of everyone who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since the detention center was opened in January 2002. The names total 759.
SOURCES: Department of Defense; The Miami Herald; Human Rights First; U.S. federal court filings, Center for Constitutional Rights, National Institute of Military Justice.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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