The United States administration’s policy of detaining ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ at the United States military base in Guantánamo Bay falls short of international and domestic law standards. The problem in the authors’ view is not that the United States has decided to designate those captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan as ‘unlawful combatants’ who (allegedly) fall outside the scope of international humanitarian law. International humanitarian law has long recognized the existence of such a category. The problem is rather that international humanitarian law has been sporadically and selectively applied and in many respects has been ignored or violated with respect to the detainees held in Guantánamo and elsewhere within the context of the ‘war on terror’. In its recent judgements in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld v. Bush and Rasul v. Bush the United States Supreme Court has not passed an unambiguous and clear judgement on the United States policy towards unlawful enemy combatants. The Court may have rejected the executive’s claim that it has the authority to incarcerate people suspected of terrorist connections without any judicial review, the three decisions have not imposed on the executive a clear framework governing the detention of alleged terrorists. The Court has upheld the government’s power to hold ‘enemy combatants’ according to standards that fall short of the requirements of the Geneva Conventions. Moreover, the due process protection granted to those challenging their status as’ enemy combatant’ is so deferential to the executive that it could render review virtually insignificant
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