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The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has granted a Guantanamo Bay detainee’s appeal against the denial of his habeas corpus petition, in a significant case about the due process requirements of a fair hearing.

The appellant, Mr Qassim, is a Yemeni citizen who has for over 17 years been detained at Guantanamo Bay by the United States authorities. In the wake of Rasul v Bush 542 US 466 (2004), in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the federal habeas statute applies to foreigners detained at Guantanamo, Mr Qassim filed a petition for habeas corpus. His case was, however, stayed until 2017, pending the determination of other cases regarding the procedural framework for the litigation of such petitions.

The hearing at first instance proceeded on the footing that binding precedent established that Mr Qassim had no right to due process. The government sought to justify his detention by reference to material that was disclosed to neither him nor his lawyers, and the District Court denied his petition on that basis.

The Court of Appeals rejected the premise that Mr Qassim has no right to due process, and held that Boumediene v Bush 533 US 723 (2008) establishes that he and other foreign detainees at Guantanamo must be afforded a habeas process that ensures “meaningful review” of their detention. The case has been remitted for the District Court to determine what process is required to ensure such a meaningful review on the facts of the case, and thereafter to consider the substantive petition.

A copy of the judgment can be read here.

Tim Otty QC and George Molyneaux acted for the amicus curiae, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, which intervened in the case, to draw the Court’s attention to relevant English and Commonwealth authorities.