A federal court on Monday refused to hear a plea of a Guantanamo detainee asking for a mattress and blanket in his cell.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also declined Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif’s request for medical records on his seizure condition.
Monday’s ruling touched on the extent to which a recent Supreme Court decision allows judges to determine how detainees are treated at Guantanamo Bay.
Latif made what he called a “modest” request for special accommodations, saying they are part of his right of access to the courts. He said the Supreme Court granted Guantanamo detainees the access in its June 12 decision in Boumediene v. Bush.
The landmark case gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their confinement in the U.S. legal system, despite a Bush administration policy saying they had no such rights. The Bush administration classified the detainees as military prisoners, a classification that eliminates their rights to hearings given to prisoners on U.S. soil.
Congress endorsed the detention policy with the Military Commissions Act of 2006, part of which said, “No court, justice or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.”
Prisoners’ challenges to their confinement are called writs of habeas corpus.
In the Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court said the Military Commissions Act’s denial of habeas corpus was unconstitutional. The detainees “are entitled to the privilege of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of their detention,” the Supreme Court ruled.
However, the Supreme Court ruling does not extend to hearings on whether the detainees can get mattresses, blankets or medical records, said the U.S. District Court ruling on Monday.
“While the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene gives [Latif] the right to challenge the fact of his confinement, it says nothing of his right to challenge the conditions of his confinement,” said the decision by Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan.
Sections of the Military Commissions Act denying courts the right to rule on the conditions of how detainees are treated remain in effect, Judge Hogan said.
A mattress, blanket and medical records are part of the “detention, treatment or conditions of confinement” that federal law will not allow judges to decide, the ruling said.
Latif requested the medical records to determine whether he required “further assistance” with his seizure condition, the ruling said.
“This has been a lurking issue,” said Martin Lederman, a Georgetown University Law Center professor of constitutional law and a former Justice Department attorney.
Federal courts have not decided on whether Congress can deny detainees a right to challenge the conditions under which they are held, he said.