Court Agrees To Hear Groundbreaking Case In War On Terror

January 12, 2004
New Haven attorney is available for comment on the Hamdi or Padilla cases.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced this morning that it would hear the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen seized in Afghanistan and held indefinitely without charges in a military brig.  This is the first of the so-called “enemy combatant” cases to reach the Supreme Court. 

The government has contended that Hamdi is not entitled to rights under the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions.  The case raises important issues in the war on terrorism and the balance between national security and civil liberties after 9/11.  Argument will likely be heard in April. The government had urged the Court not to take the case.  Only two days ago, the government asked the Court at least to wait until the case of another combatant, Padilla v. Rumsfeld, becomes ripe for review.  The Court’s rebuff to the government joins a long list of recent government losses in its aggressive legal strategy.

Jonathan Freiman, an attorney in the appellate practice at Wiggin and Dana LLP and a Senior Fellow at the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Court to hear the Hamdi case.  The brief was signed by a coalition of former American prisoners of war, including Douglas “Pete” Peterson, a fighter pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six and a half years as a prisoner of war, later to return as Ambassador to Vietnam under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  Freiman is also coordinating the amicus brief efforts in Padilla,  the other enemy combatant case, recently decided in Padilla’s favor by the Second Circuit.

"The court has made clear that the President cannot escape judicial scrutiny for his aggressive tactics in the war on terror.  New times may require new tactics, but our nation’s courts must be available to ensure that those tactics do not violate our constitution or damage the fabric of our society,” said Freiman. 

Hamdi was purportedly captured by Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan and then transferred to American forces, who brought him to Guantanamo Bay.  When they discovered that he is an American citizen, officials moved Hamdi to a naval brig in South Carolina, where he has been deprived of access to his family.  Despite broad-based protests, he was denied access to counsel until a few weeks ago.