My Winter 2006 ConLaw class was fascinating, particularly because of the focus on contemporary Supreme Court cases. Our final assignment was to propose a ruling on a “War on Terror” detainee case pending before the court, Mahdi v. Rumsfeld.
Ahmad Mahdi (For some reason our teacher called him that instead of “Ahmad Hamdan”) is currently an inmate in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. He was captured by Afghani forces during the invasion of Afghanistan two months after September 11, 2001, and the Afghanis transferred custody to the United States military in December of 2001. He has been declared an enemy combatant, and is alleged to be one of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards. In July, 2003, President Bush determined that “there is reason to believe that Mahdi was a member of al Qaeda or was otherwise involved in terrorism directed against the United States.” Mahdi has remained in custody at Guantanamo ever since under the authority of the President’s executive order of November 13, 2001 establishing procedures for detaining enemy combatants. Mahdi filed a writ of habeas corpus in April 2004; at roughly the same time, the US government formally charged him with conspiracy to commit attacks on civilians and civilian objects, murder and destruction of property, and terrorism. He was slated to be tried before a military tribunal, but requested review of his situation in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld in the summer of 2004. The hearing determined that he was an enemy combatant subject to further detention.
You now must rule on Mahdi’s habeas writ. The questions before you may include the following:
• Do you have jurisdiction to rule on the writ of habeas corpus?
• Were the military commissions (Mahdi’s only current recourse to the legal process) properly authorized?
• Do the 1949 Geneva Convention’s rules impose a bar to Mahdi’s trial by military tribunal?
Your answers to these questions will determine whether or not you grant habeas relief to Ahmad Mahdi.
As it turned out, the court decided the case a couple months later very similarly to my proposed ruling, against the military tribunals.