Can the Rights of People Simply Disappear by Presidential Order?

Revolutionary Worker #1237, April 25, 2004, posted at

The RW received this call:

Can the Rights of People Simply Disappear by Presidential Order?

What does it mean when the President of the United States can on his own designate a citizen in the U.S. as an "enemy combatant," and order the military to hold that person incommunicado, indefinitely, and without charges? The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding whether the courts even have the right to question the President's action.

What does it mean when the U.S. military internationally can literally snatch people off the street, designate them as "enemy combatants," and assert that they are beyond the reach of either U.S. or international law? Many are transported to a facility under total U.S. control and funded by Congressional appropriations, where they are held incommunicado, indefinitely, without charges and some are threatened with trials before a military commission that falls short of basic standards of justice.

If the Supreme Court upholds these actions, it will condone the President's claim of virtually unlimited "wartime powers" without a formal declaration of war by the Congress, and with no or extremely limited oversight by the courts or the Congress.

On April 20 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the President's alleged right to create a "law free zone" at the Guantánamo detention center in Cuba. And on April 28, the Court will hear oral arguments on the President's asserted right to designate citizens as "enemy combatants," hold them at the U.S. Navy base in Charleston, SC, and deny them the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

We believe that the President cannot be allowed to create a "legal Black Hole" into which people are dropped with no recourse to the courts or to international law. Among us we hold many varied views on how and why this situation has arisen and what is ultimately needed to ensure justice. But we all agree that this dangerous new presidentially-designated category of "enemy combatants" who have no legal rights is unjust, illegal, and immoral, and cannot be allowed to stand.

The silence over this perilous issue must be broken, and public opposition must be manifested. Join us in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 and April 28 to declare a resounding NO! Legally permitted, non-violent demonstrations will occur on both days from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm with a program of speakers beginning at 11:am.

Our future and the future of hundreds of anonymous detainees now hang in the balance. This is a watershed event in history. What is at stake is just how much the President will be allowed to get away with. Your silence will be taken as assent.

Endorsing Organizations (list in formation)

National and International Organizations

Regional and Local Organizations


* Individuals' organizations listed for identification purposes only

In addition to the organizations and individuals signing this call, many other groups have demonstrated their concern by representing the plaintiffs or by filing amicus briefs with the court. Among those who have filed briefs are:

On the Guantánamo issue:

On the case of Yaser Hamdi:

On the case of Jose Padilla: