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United States officials seized Algerian humanitarian-aid worker Lakhdar Boumediene in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The officials shipped Boumediene to the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There, he had an opportunity to contest the factual basis for his designation as an enemy combatant before a special tribunal.
The tribunal refused to change Boumediene’s status as an enemy combatant, and he filed for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, but later, the United States Supreme Court held in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), that federal courts had jurisdiction to hear habeas petitions from foreign nationals held at Guantánamo.
The district court reviewed Boumediene’s petition again, and this time, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court took up the case to consider whether the alternative procedures provided to foreign citizens held at Guantánamo under the Detainee Treatment Act were an adequate substitute for habeas proceedings.
A sharply divided Court concluded that the alternative procedures were inadequate, and foreign nationals were entitled to file for writs of habeas corpus, at least until Congress had formally suspended the writ pursuant to the Suspension Clause.
Boumediene remains a key decision for its affirmation of foreign nationals’ constitutional right to access courts—even in the midst of war.