Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Military Commissions in the "Global War on Terrorism"

RS22466 -- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Military Commissions in the "Global War on Terrorism"

July 6, 2006


The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that President Bush's military order on the Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism exceeded his authority. The Court found that Congress did not strip the Court of jurisdiction to hear Hamdan v. Rumsfeld when it passed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (title X of P.L.109-148), which limited federal court jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions from detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Although the Court did not dispute the President's authority to hold the petitioner as an "enemy combatant ... for the duration of hostilities," it found the military tribunals convened to try detainees for violations of the law of war did not comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or the law of war, as incorporated in the UCMJ and embodied in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which the Court held applicable to the armed conflict. The three dissenters argued that the ruling would hamper the President's ability to fight terrorism. The majority left open the possibility that Congress could grant the necessary authority to create military commissions that depart from the UCMJ. One new bill, S. 3614, addresses the issue.