- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

LONDON — Some saw the beginning of the end for Guantanamo Bay, others a vindication for Europeans who have condemned the U.S. prison camp in Cuba.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military trials for a few Guantanamo Bay detainees provoked a variety of reactions, including jubilation and deep skepticism.

Jose Diaz, spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “The decision is a case of restoring the judiciary to its proper place in a system of checks and balances, which is essential in upholding the rule of law.”

London-based human rights group Amnesty International, one of the most vocal critics of the detention center, hailed the ruling as “a victory for the rule of law and human rights.”

Attorneys for the detainees who have been charged said the ruling could be the beginning of the end of the prison camp.

“There certainly will be some fallout from this, and it may very well lead to the closing of Guantanamo Bay in the near future,” said Army Maj. Tom Fleener, who represents Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al-Bahlul, a Yemeni.

The camp has been a delicate diplomatic issue between the United States and Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for its closure, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush’s closest ally in the war against terror, called it an anomaly.

“In a diplomatic point of view, this [ruling] is going to increasingly marginalize the United States politically within those parts of the European Union that have always had misgivings about Guantanamo,” said Sonya Sceats, an international human rights law analyst for Chatham House, a London-based think tank. “The decision will increase pressure on the European Union for the return of nationals remaining at Guantanamo Bay.”

Charles Parker, a terrorism researcher at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, said the European Union is likely to applaud the ruling that the military courts violated the Geneva Conventions. “It vindicates what they have been saying all along,” he said.

British lawmakers said the ruling could force the United States into a firm decision on the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo.

Mike Gapes, chairman of Britain’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, saw three options: “to release those who can be safely released, to prosecute others within properly and in accordance with U.S. law and to send the rest back to their home countries, who can decide whether they should be prosecuted or not.”

Nicholas Howen, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, called on the Bush administration to abolish the military tribunals, saying the ruling “appears to say clearly [they] are unconstitutional and in violation of the Geneva Conventions,” Reuters news agency reported.

In Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis said the ruling “is a victory for justice in the campaign against error, ineptitude and hypocrisy,” Agence France-Press reported.

Rene van der Linden, president of the body’s parliamentary assembly, said the court “has come to exactly the same conclusion as our assembly, which pointed this out nearly three years ago.”

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