A US district court judge has ordered the release of one of the youngest detainees at Guantanamo Bay after the government agreed that it could no longer hold him.
District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle granted Mohammed Jawad's petition for habeas corpus and ordered the government to
file a report on Jawad's release with Congress by August 6. Under new
rules for the release of detainees established by Congress, the Obama
administration would have to wait 15 days after filing the report to
release Jawad. The government alleged that Jawad had injured two US troops in
Afghanistan and their interpreter in a grenade attack. A military
judge ruled last October that Jawad had confessed to the act only after
torture by Afghan officials, and barred the use of the confession in
the military tribunals at Guantanamo.
The Justice Department
agreed at the outset of the current habeas corpus proceedings to
refrain from entering Jawad's confession into evidence. Recently, the
Justice Department filed a notice in the case that it would not
continue to treat Jawad as a military detainee under the Authorization for Military Force enacted after the September 11th attacks.
case was a test for the Obama administration. A series of Supreme
Court decisions have affirmed the right of Guantanamo detainees to
pursue traditional habeas corpus relief, but the cases provided
district courts with few guidelines on how to apply habeas corpus to
the detainees. Specifically, the Court did not address whether
district courts could order the release of prisoners when the
government claimed it must continue their detention.
The government typically continues to hold detainees when no country
agrees to accept them. In Jawad's case, however, Afghanistan has
already agreed to his return.
Obama administration has argued that it can still continue to hold
Jawad at Guantanamo while it prepares a domestic criminal case against
him. The administration argues that it has new evidence against Jawad
to support a criminal prosecution, but Jawad's attorneys deny this.
If the administration does decide to bring criminal
charges against Jawad, it must also file a report with Congress, and wait 45 days
before bringing Jawad to the US for a trial.
The judge's order
puts significant pressure on the Obama administration. President Obama
has stated that he wants to close the detention center at Guantanamo
Bay by 2010. The release of a suspected enemy combatant back into
Afghanistan would create serious political obstacles to this plan.