Moot Court: Hamdi V Rumsfeld

Social Education, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Moot Court: Hamdi V Rumsfeld


Yaser Esam Hamdi was captured when his military unit surrendered in Afghanistan in late 2001. He had an AK-47. The U.S. government believed he had trained with the Taliban and had ties to al Qaeda. He was sent to Guantanamo Bay as an "enemy combatant." Hamdi had been born in Louisiana, making him a U.S. citizen, even though he had grown up in the Middle East.

In June of 2002, his father filed a habeas petition in the Federal District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia. The court ordered immediate, confidential access to an attorney because they believed the government evidence did not show that Hamdi was an "enemy combatant." The United States appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling. This court reasoned that the executive branch of government needed more authority than the courts in deciding whether a detained person is an enemy combatant. The public safety was of primary importance. Hamdi appealed to the Supreme Court.

Can Hamdi be held indefinitely without access to confidential counsel or should a writ of habeas corpus be issued?

Arguments for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (the United States)

* The president has the power to detain "enemy combatants" captured in war zones. This power is not affected by [the detainee's] status as a U.S. citizen.

* Congress's Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001 strengthens, rather than limits, the executive's power.

* Hamdi's detention is consistent with international treaty obligations and standard military practices.

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