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US court decision on terror detainees sets 'dangerous precedent' - UN rights expert

US court decision on terror detainees sets 'dangerous precedent' - UN rights expert

A United Nations expert on judicial independence warned today that a "dangerous precedent" could be set in the wake of a ruling in the United States that said terror suspects held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba do not have the right to hearings in US courts.

Dato' Param Cumaraswamy, Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers, expressed concern following yesterday's decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia Circuit, which ruled that suspected Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters held at Guantanamo Bay were aliens outside US sovereign territory and not protected by the US Constitution.

Mr. Cumaraswamy said the decision seemed to imply that the government of a sovereign State "could lease a piece of land from a neighbouring State, set up a detention camp, arrest suspects of terrorism from another jurisdiction, send them to this camp, [and then] deny them their legal rights - including principles of due process generally granted its own citizens - on grounds that the camp is physically outside its jurisdiction."

"By such conduct, the Government of the United States, in this case, will be seen as systematically evading application of domestic and international law so as to deny these suspects their legal rights," Mr. Cumaraswamy said, adding that the implication of the decision were "far-reaching" and could set a "dangerous precedent."

Calling on the US Government to comply with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, Mr. Cumaraswamy said the "war on terrorism cannot possibly be won by the denial of legal rights, including fundamental principles of due process of those merely suspected of terrorism."