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The Supreme Court, the Bush Administration and Guantánamo Bay

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Publisher: SIPRI
January, 2009

The long-term detention of terrorist suspects at Guantánamo Bay and the convening of special military commissions to try them have been among the many controversial aspects of the ‘global war on terrorism’ declared by former US President George W. Bush. The Bush Administration’s Guantánamo policies sought to address genuine security concerns but denied detainees basic rights, including habeas corpus, access to legal counsel and rights under the Geneva Conventions. The US Supreme Court, which has a history of supporting the US Government in times of conflict, repeatedly ruled against the policies.

This SIPRI Background Paper presents a brief overview of the military commissions policy and the legal challenges they have faced in the Supreme Court.


I. Introduction

II. Military commissions and the Supreme Court

III. Conclusions


Kirsten Soder was a Researcher with the SIPRI Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme. She managed the SIPRI Multilateral Peace Operations Database between 2006 and 2010.