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Pro Bono Attorneys Sought for Guantanamo Bay Prisoners

Thursday, April 20, 2006

  • Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the nearly 600 men imprisoned by the U.S. government in Guantánamo Bay have a right of access to the federal courts, via habeas corpus and otherwise, to challenge their detention and conditions of confinement. As TLPJ and many others urged, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush Administration's claim that the war on terrorism gave the President unlimited, unreviewable power to imprison these men indefinitely without any charges, hearing, counsel, or court review. The Supreme Court's historic decision, however, has meant very little so far to these individuals, who are foreign citizens unfamiliar with U.S. law and who have been held virtually incommunicado for nearly four years without access to attorneys.

There is a pro bono opportunity to represent these individuals and seek due process to determine whether they were lawfully or unlawfully detained pursuant to the President's assertion of war powers. Some of these prisoners are allegedly random prisoners unconnected to al-Qaida who were sold to the U.S. for bounty money. Many are also reportedly suffering from psychological and physical injuries as a consequence of their indefinite detention, and need legal help to challenge the conditions of their confinement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based human rights organization, has filed a single habeas petition in federal court on behalf of nearly 200 men who were waiting for individual attorneys to represent them. CCR is now looking for pro bono attorneys willing to enter an appearance in the case on behalf of individual prisoners. No experience with habeas petitions is necessary. CCR and a team of cooperating counsel from the private bar can offer extensive background materials and regular training sessions for attorneys beginning their habeas representations.

However, volunteer attorneys must be prepared to devote significant resources -- including the time and expense associated with travel to Guantánamo and, perhaps, to Washington, D.C., and foreign countries -- in order to identify legal issues and develop facts specific to the detention of their clients. For example, attorneys must be prepared to navigate (with CCR's help) the necessary paperwork to obtain the security clearance needed to work on cases involving classified information and for visits with clients at Guantánamo. In addition, attorneys may need to expend resources to pursue political and diplomatic avenues for their clients' repatriation to their home countries or resettlement elsewhere. While this is all going on, the Bush Administration will be (and already is) working to have these claims dismissed.

If you would like to learn more about representing a Guantánamo prisoner, or if you are prepared to volunteer as a pro bono habeas lawyer, please contact CCR directly at
Pro Bono and legal aid attorney resources - Pro Bono Net
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