A US judge on Thursday rejected a legal challenge from a Guantánamo Bay detainee who said his imprisonment was unlawful now that President has declared an end to hostilities in Afghanistan.
Muktar Yahya Najee al-Warafi, a Yemeni who was captured in , has been held since 2002 at the prison in Cuba for terror detainees. Judges have upheld his detention on grounds that he likely aided Taliban forces, though his lawyers have said he was simply a medic.
His latest challenge centered on statements in the last year indicating that the war in Afghanistan had come to an end. His lawyers said that those assertions made his detention unlawful under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which provided the legal justification for the imprisonment of foreign fighters captured on overseas battlefields. The supreme court stressed in a 2004 opinion, Hamdi v Rumsfeld, that such detention is legal only as long as “active hostilities” continue.
US district judge Royce Lamberth wrote in a 14-page opinion that the president’s statements notwithstanding, the government had offered “convincing evidence that US involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan, against al-Qaida and forces alike, has not stopped”. Al-Warafi’s detention therefore remains legal, he said.
“A court cannot look to political speeches alone to determine factual and legal realities merely because doing so would be easier than looking at all the relevant evidence,” Lamberth wrote. “The government may not always mean what it says or say what it means.”
Brian Foster, a lawyer for al-Warafi, said the judge’s opinion amounted to a “rubber stamp for endless detention”. He said he would review the opinion and decide whether to appeal.
A similar petition is pending before another judge in Washington from Faez Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who was shipped to Guantánamo following his 2001 capture after the battle of Tora Bora.