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July 15, 2004 SUPREME COURT GUANTANAMO RULING: 'DECISION FOR THE AGES'

July 15, 2004

SUPREME COURT GUANTANAMO RULING:  'DECISION FOR THE AGES'

 

KEY FINDINGS

 

**  Global media deem the Court's ruling a "painful defeat" for the Bush Administration.

**  The decision reflects American values and "what the United States stands for."

**  Some observers regret that the judgments "leave many questions unanswered."

**  Several Euro and South Asian outlets lament that the Court's ruling "took such a long time."

 

MAJOR THEMES

 

'Bush has received a strong rap over his fingers'--  Writers depicted the legal decision as a "failure" of Bush policy.  Nicaragua's leftist El Nuevo Diario proclaimed that the ruling confirms "the fundamental principle" that "not even the worst dangers" justify "the type of general deference to which Bush's government thinks it has a right."  A Canadian daily concluded the U.S.'s "endless war on terrorism" is no longer "a license" to detain anyone "without recourse to the courts."  France's left-of-center Le Monde declared that while representing "defeat" for President Bush, the decision translates to victory for "the fundamental laws of democracy."        

 

'An astounding tribute to American democracy'--  Many papers lauded the ruling for validating American democracy and "the strength" of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court "made it clear" that courts "continue to be guardians protecting citizens against unlawful arrest," intoned right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine.  Euro and Asian papers celebrated the "triumph" of checks and balances while acclaiming the U.S. "power of self-purification" and the "inviolability" of its institutions.  The Bush administration's insistence on indefinite detention "goes against the principles on which [the U.S.] is based," added Paraguay's La Nacion.

 

The ruling 'does not go far enough'--  Some dailies asserted that questions remain.  A German daily averred that detainees still face an "uncertain" fate.  While the decision allows each detainee a legal review, "it does not mean that those detained will automatically be released" or exempted from military trial, an Irish paper posited.  While conceding that the edict puts limits on the president's "arbitrariness," the leftist Austrian magazine Vienna Profil criticized the verdict as "not very far-reaching" because the U.S. can still deny POW status to enemy combatants.     

 

The Court rules on Gitmo's 'regime of injustice' at 'long last!'--  Some European writers chastised the Court for taking "too long" to hand down its decision.  There is "every possible reason to regret" that "it took such a long time," scolded the Danish center-right daily Jyllands- Posten.  "It would have been to the USA's credit" to have taken action "before the first prisoner arrived."  India's independent Munsif faulted the Supreme Court for being "completely unmoved" while "600 helpless victims of American savagery in Guantanamo" were "brutally tortured and humiliated."  Britain's independent weekly Economist reasoned that progress on improving detainees' rights still "is plainly not fast enough."

 

EDITOR:  Michael Kugelman

 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 50 reports from 23 countries June 29 - July 13, 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

 

EUROPE

 

BRITAIN:  "Legal Black Hole"

 

Steve Crawshaw, London director of Human Rights Watch, commented in Sunday edition of center-left daily The Guardian (7/4):  "Last week's landmark decision by the US Supreme Court embarrassed the Bush administration by making clear that Guantanamo cannot simply be treated as a legal black hole.... The spotlight on the trampling of due process by the world's most powerful government, including the attempt to exclude independent appeal courts entirely, is appropriate...."

 

"Not Good Enough"

 

The independent Economist noted (Internet version, 7/1):  "The courts are too slow. Congress must change the disgraceful treatment of detainees....  The White House has managed to turn a generally reviled group of prisoners, most of whom were picked up fighting for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, into figures of international sympathy. It has done this by denying these "enemy combatants" any semblance of western justice....  This week, the American judicial system began the long task of righting this huge wrong. The Supreme Court said that Mr Bush had the right to hold combatants without trial but, crucially, it decided that the detainees at Guantánamo could have recourse to the United States courts-something Mr Bush has (disgracefully) fought hammer and tongs....  By affirming that 'a state of war is not a blank cheque for the president,' the court struck an important blow: the 595 detainees in Cuba and Mr Hamdi will now start their various appeals to the federal courts. The military commissions themselves may come under scrutiny.So progress has been made. But it is plainly not fast enough, and it is also clumsy: the judges are making America's terrorist laws because the politicians have not done so...."

 

"U.S. Court Strikes Blow For Justice"

 

The independent Financial Times editorialized (6/29):  "The majority decision, taken by justices nominated by Republican as well as Democratic administrations, strikes a great blow for justice and for America's sullied legal reputation....  Mr. Bush has asked for the trust of the American people and the other branches of government to do whatever is necessary to prosecute his war on terror.  The message, first from some in Congress over the Abu Ghraib incidents and now from the Supreme Court over Guantánamo, is that trust is not enough, and that there are standards and laws the executive must respect.  Hurrah for the separation of powers, which has come to America's rescue."

 

"Guantanamo Verdict"

 

The conservative Times held (6/29):  "The decision by the US Supreme Court that the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to challenge their captivity in American courts is wise and brave. It is wise because the notion that these captives would have no legal status at all, and for however long they were held, is wrong. It is brave because the majority on the court have acted against the wishes of the Bush Administration and, it is fair to anticipate, contrary to the instincts of many individual Americans as well....  That the ruling is a victory for the American judiciary over its misguided critics should not be doubted.  The Supreme Court was described by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as 'quiet', but only because it was the 'quiet of a storm center'.  This court has correctly placed itself at the center of this political storm and re-emphasized the importance of the rule of law."

 

"American Values"

 

The center-left Independent stated (6/29):  "The U.S. Supreme Court may have a majority of Republican appointees, but its justices have shown they know what the United States stands for, even if the current Republican president seems to have forgotten....  This does not mean that the Guantánamo detainees will necessarily be released, but it does mean that they have rights that must now be respected."

 

FRANCE:  "The Return Of The Law"

 

Left-of-center Le Monde maintained (6/30):  "It took the Supreme Court two years to give its decision on Guantánamo, an area which stands outside the law and was created by the Bush administration....  The decision represents a failure for President Bush....  By granting the detainees the right to contest their own detention before a U.S. court, the Supreme Court is also reminding the president that he cannot take over the judiciary, and that the presidency cannot be exempt from the law....  We must be happy about these decisions because not only do they represent defeat for President Bush, they also mean victory for the fundamental laws of democracy."

 

"A Tribute To America"

 

Francois Ernenwein wrote in Catholic La Croix (6/30):  "In the battle he has engaged in, President Bush keeps meeting tough opponents.  One of those is Michael Moore....  But Moore's criticism has not affected the White House.  Let's face it:  the U.S. remains the only superpower, committed to a total war against terrorism.  On the other hand, President Bush's worries may be coming from another front:  his disregard for the law.  In a nation where the law plays such a central role, the lightness with which he and his advisors have treated the law is indeed surprising.  The errors of the president and his men are coming back to haunt them.  They have managed to transform the toppling of a tyrant into an illegitimate war and the liberation of a nation into an occupation....  Now the Supreme Court's legal criticism of U.S. policy will require a quick response....  Herein lies the paradox:  while the Supreme Court's decision is a stinging defeat for the U.S. president, it is also an astounding tribute to American democracy."

 

GERMANY:  "A Legal Farce"

 

Steffen Hebestreit commented in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (7/9):  "The procedures are a joke, but not a good one.  Almost two years after the war against Afghanistan, the Pentagon itself wants to check whether 594 prisoners in the Guantánamo camp in Cuba were correctly classified as 'enemy combatants'.   Taking the legal path, the Department of Defense seems to follow the orders of the Supreme Court.  But it only seems so.  Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz wants to set up military tribunals comprised of three 'neutral' officers who decide the fate of the detainee.  Each delinquent will be assigned a 'representative', who must be a member of the military, but must not have any legal knowledge - how suitable.  Beyond that, the military court turns the presentation of the case upside down; Guantánamo detainees must give evidence for their innocence.  All that proves that the announced procedures have little to do with a return to the rule of law, of which the United States could be so proud of for centuries.  The U.S. government, which created the legal status 'enemy combatant' two years ago, is still not willing to bow to international law and the Geneva Convention.  The news is that the highest U.S. representatives care little about a Supreme Court verdict.  Let's see how long the Supreme Court will accept this."

 

"Encouraging"

 

Regional newspaper Pforzheimer Zeitung of Pforzheim (7/9) editorialized:  "At long last!  595 people will not be held at Guantánamo Bay without reasons given for it.  Under the pressure of the Supreme Court it will be checked why they are held at the U.S. Marine base.  The current development is encouraging, even though the Bush administration is just trying to avert a wave of charges with these hearings.  It must acknowledge one thing after the verdict of the Supreme Court:  prisoners of war have rights, even when calling them 'enemy combatants'."

 

"Door To Justice"

 

Katja Gelinsky commented in influential, independent, nationwide right-of-center daily Frankfurter Allgemeine (Internet Version, 7/3):  The Guantanamo prisoners will have their day in court.  This much is certain after the US Supreme Court ruling.   But this is all that is certain with regard to the fate of the 600 or so prisoners, most of whom were arrested as suspected accomplices of the Taliban or the Al-Qa'ida terrorist organization during the war in Afghanistan in 2001.  The Supreme Court has neither said where and when the prisoners may seek legal protection against their arrest, nor have the Supreme Court judges defined any specific conditions for the proceedings.   Moreover, there were a whole number of issues on which the judges were not agreed....  Arguments will be particularly difficult over the Guantanamo cases for which the legal groundwork still needs to be done.   Yet the cornerstones that the Supreme Court has laid for the prisoners are rightly praised as an important support for the rule of law, which was under threat as a result of the unlimited detention of suspected terrorists.  The Supreme Court made it clear that the country's courts continue to be guardians protecting citizens against unlawful arrest also in the struggle against terrorism, irrespective of whether the arrested individuals are US citizens or not.  Particularly when times are difficult, the United States has to uphold the very principles for which it fights abroad, the Hamdi ruling says, in which the court confirmed the right of US citizen Yaser Easam Hamdi, who is suspected of terrorism, to a fair trial.  Yet the Bush administration was less clearly put in its place by the Supreme Court judges than one might assume when listening to the cries of triumph of the Democrats on their campaign trail, who, by the way, have done little in terms of substance against Bush's Guantanamo policy.   As far as the reasons for the decision in the case of Hamdi are concerned, several basic assumptions made by the White House have been acknowledged.   It is accepted that the United States continues to be at "war" the end of which is not in sight.   Suspected accomplices of the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida may be detained as "enemy combatants" for as long as US troops are fighting in Afghanistan.   This even applies to US citizens.   The judges thus implicitly recognize the view of the administration that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 ushered in a new era in which the struggle against terrorism can no longer be fought solely with the traditional tools of criminal prosecution authorities and penal justice.   They also have no objections that the Bush administration denies its duty to protect suspected Al-Qa'ida members it arrested in keeping with the Geneva Convention.   The Supreme Court has rather evaded any ruling on the argument over international obligations the United States has to protect prisoners against torture and inhuman treatment....  Civil rights activists have rightly pointed out that the Supreme Court "has not closed the door to justice for the Guantanamo prisoners.  This, however, is not sufficient.   What matters now is to also find a way to eliminate the injustice done to the Guantanamo prisoners.  

 

"Guantána No"

 

Washington correspondent Wolfgang Koydl filed the following editorial for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/30):  "We have never seen the Bush administration, which usually shows its superiority, in such a sheepish way as now after the Supreme Court ruling.  The embarrassed silence is understandable, since the ruling not only means a legal but also a political defeat for the government....  The practical consequences of this ruling are far-reaching and for the armed forces, which operate the detention camps, they mean a logistical nightmare, for the first demand lawyers will now raise is access to their clients and permission for relatives to see the detainees.  But Guantánamo has been sealed off from the outside and visits by civilians are hard to imagine.  This raises the question of whether hearings must take place in a U.S. court, and it is unclear whether the detainees have the right to name witnesses and to fly them in.  Other lawyers even think that the alleged Taliban and al-Qaida members can commit a very malicious tort:  to ask for compensation for the years in prison."

 

"The Law And Terror"

 

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg opined (6/30):  "The development for the U.S. administration could not have been worse:  at the same day when the Americans returned sovereignty to a country that has got out of control, George W. Bush got on the defensive at another front....  This is a clear defeat for the U.S. government....  President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's cynical attempt to detain more than 600 'illegal enemy combatants' in Cuba, thus withdrawing them from the judiciary, has failed.  Now the U.S. government must reveal what it has in its hands against the prisoners....  If evidence is not sufficient, Bush is threatened with a similar worst-case scenario than he faced in the scandal over the pictures of torture from Abu Ghraib.  Following the painful experience in Iraq that terrorism cannot be fought with military power alone, the Americans must now learn another lesson:  their attempt to stand above the law deprived them of their most important good in the fight against terror: credibility."

 

"Against The Arbitrariness Of Power"

 

Astrid Huelscher penned the following editorial for left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (6/30):  "The Supreme Court took a long time before it ruled on the regime of injustice in Guantánamo.  And it was probably easier to remember the primacy of the rule of law exactly at the moment, when the mood among Americans is beginning to change to skepticism, if not rejection of the Iraq war....  The ruling of the supreme judges has now opened the chance of the detainees from Guantánamo to go to court.  And this is much, in light of the two years of uncertainty and lawlessness.  In addition, the ruling has another significance:  it showed the government its limits and it deprived the government of the arrogated absolute rule over the law.  The judges helped making the principles of international law irreversible.  And the utopian view of the universality of human rights will now become a bit more concrete if it withstands the terrorist challenge and if democratic states do not allow security to eat freedom."

 

"Guantanamo"

 

Torsten Krauel commented in major right-of-center daily Berlin Die Welt (6/30):  "If anyone needed an idea of what constitutes a state governed by the rule of law, they may just look at what the US Supreme Court delivered yesterday.  The judges confirmed the right of the US Administration to arrest people in the interest of national security without indictment, but they also confirmed the right of such prisoners to the due process of law.  As a result, one of the cornerstones of George W. Bush's antiterrorism policy has collapsed.  The reason is that the verdict of the Supreme Court rob the administration of a means of exerting pressure by threatening to order unlimited detention, with which the Pentagon wanted to make those talk who were unwilling to testify, and to deactivate 'illegal combatants' it believes to be dangerous.  What the judges did de facto was to put the rule of law above the President's claim to define what the country's national security is.  This distinguishes a dictatorship from a democracy founded on the rule of law.  The Supreme Court rulings will perhaps be widely interpreted in the United States as the beginning of the end of a 'national security state' hooked on secrecy, which, in this view of the world, appeared to have been on an unstoppable advance ever since the foundation of the CIA in 1947.  For practical politics, the verdict means that the Al-Qa'ida prisoners either have to be released or given access to US criminal courts.  This is an ambivalent decision.  The law has won, fortunately.  Yet US penal law makes it obligatory for the accused to be fully informed about the public prosecutor's knowledge so that they are able to adequately defend themselves.  The idea to set up the special camp in Guantanamo was due to the concern about having to disclose US intelligence service information to Al-Qa'ida suspects.  The judges failed to share this concern." 

 

"Judge's Verdict"

 

Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine noted (6/29):  "The Supreme Court had no other choice but to open the path to U.S. courts for the Guantánamo prisoners.  This was not only a question of constitutional rights for every individual under U.S. sovereignty, but also of the separation of powers in the United States.  Why should the highest judges accept that the government wanted to safeguard an area that was free from the law and courts, and put the detention camps in a worse position than U.S. vessels on the high seas?  The Bush administration subjected hundreds of people for more than two years to administrative rules without offering control possibilities or legal support.  This was bad enough, but the various decisions by lower courts even intensified this situation of uncertainty.  Once they said that the government has clear authorities, then some judges said the government is overstretching the law.  But now it is clear:  there are no prisoners without rights."

 

"Perfect Timing"

 

Washington correspondent Malte Lehming filed the following editorial for centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (6/29):  "The timing was perfect.  The U.S. government may have thought that if it had to accept a defeat, then it should at least not dominate the headlines....  The news was dominated by the coup of the early transfer of power in Iraq....  The more than 600 prisoners in Guantánamo can now see a glimmer of hope.  Their fate no longer depends on the president's arbitrariness.  The judiciary has put politics in its place."

 

"A Success?"

 

Arnd Festerling noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (6/29):  "The decision is directed against George W. Bush's policy....  but the Supreme Court did not deny the president the right to turn the prisoners into 'enemy combatants.'  It only states that the state of war is no blank check for the U.S. president to do with prisoners whatever he likes.  So it is still uncertain what happens to the prisoners.  They only have the right to get legal support.  Is this a defeat or a success for George W. Bush?  The ruling lies somewhere in between.  And it does certainly not go far enough."

 

"Guantanamo Bay: Triumph Of Law"

 

Leading financial and economic daily Duesseldorf Handelsblatt opined (6/29):  It is a defeat for George W. Bush and a triumph for the state based on the rule of law: the US Supreme Court has ruled that suspected terrorists must be given access to courts of law of the United States. Since the establishment of the prisoner camp at the US base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Bush administration has tried to prevent precisely that.   Its explanation was that these were not regular prisoners of war, but irregular "enemy combatants."  

This had meant to take into account the needs of the intelligence services and the military: unhindered by international regulations, suspects could be questioned quickly and for an indefinite period of time.   In some cases, substantive evidence against suspects existed, while in others there was just a vague suspicion.  The rule of law lost out with this procedure.  For Guantanamo Bay created a new category of prisoners that must not exist even in the war against terrorism: a category of people having no rights, who are unable to defend themselves, and against whom the state does not even have to make a specific indictment.  The ruling of the US judges comes too late.  The political irony of the story is that it comes at the most inopportune moment for Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: right in the middle of the presidential election campaign and before the scandal over torture in the Abu-Ghurayb prison has been cleared up.  The judges, however, have shown the embittered enemies of the United States yet again what distinguishes this country: the power of self-purification even in moments of harsh internal and international conflicts.  This is the real strength of the United States.

 

ITALY:  "Civil Rights? They Live In The West"  

 

Massimo Teodoro commented in right-of-center daily Milan Il Giornale (7/2):  The West, our West, has never been as vituperated as today.   It is not only the bearers of antiliberal ideologies who rage against our capitalist and globalist civility, seeking to make it appear responsible for crimes against the weaker peoples of the world.   The war against terrorism, which of course has had some noncommendable chapters, has been taken as a pretext for declaring the end of democracy in the United States and the nazification of Israel.   Bush has been insulted on the same plane as Bin Ladin; Sharon has been criminalized as a naziist. The many and such vulgar lies have been negated by two exemplary sentences by the United States and Israeli Supreme Courts.   With a nonfortuitous coincidence, the two most accused countries--the United States and Israel--have shown that the West is still able to best express its civilization through its highest juridical and constitutional national institutions.   The State governed by law, the home-site of liberal civilization, is alive and kicking, and with it, civil and human rights....  Even in such circumstances as would have made any country turn barbarous, the United States and Israel have kept their institutions and their democratic and liberal rules inviolable.  It is all too true that the American wars became marshy in aberrations such as the tortures at Abu Ghurayb and the Guantanamo prisons, but it is now clear that the constitutional system is able to quickly rid itself of antibodies....  Human rights, codified in the US Constitution before they were in international law, have returned to their top position of enforceability in the American system....  The State governed by law reigns supreme....

 

"Guantánamo, The Prisoners Will Be Transferred To U.S."

 

Roberto Rezzo stated in pro-democratic left party (DS) daily L'Unità (7/1):  "The Supreme Court caught the Bush administration off guard.  Hundreds of prisoners being held in Guantánamo, Cuba could soon be transferred to a U.S. prison....  The Supreme Court's ruling compels the Bush administration to speed up the reorganization of the Guantánamo prison site, which has been criticized by human rights organizations both at home and abroad."

 

RUSSIA:  "A Slap In Bush's Face"

 

Andrey Terekhov wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (6/30):  "A slap in the face of the Bush administration is how analysts describe a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court...to offer Guantánamo prisoners a chance to get free.  The ruling may have important consequences, according to observers.  It is not only the fate of the 600 people, who got to Guantánamo mostly from Afghanistan.  It is the whole range of urgent measures the White House, Pentagon and Justice Department worked out after September 11, 2001, to combat terrorism."

 

AUSTRIA:  "About Monsters And Judges"

 

Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof commented in leftist weekly newsmagazine Vienna Profil (7/5):  "....Certainly the verdict of the very conservative body of judges is not very far-reaching.  The President can continue to declare foreigners and US citizens to be enemy combatants and thereby deny them the status of prisoners of war.  The Supreme Court, however, does not want to go along with the complete repeal of constitutional principles.  Limits are finally being put on the President's arbitrariness.  This is a heavy blow for Bush, who until now as commander in chief has been able to act unhindered in his 'war against terrorism.'  It shows that the highly developed system of checks and balances still works in America and that the constitutional state has not been completely abrogated....  The new century, however, [has] brought a severe setback for human rights.   The United States, the sole superpower, essentially declared "obsolete" all civilizing rules of warfare that were developed over the centuries.   The goal of fighting the new devil of terrorism justifies all means.  That is the logic of the Bush policy.   We are experiencing an unprecedented historical regression, an erosion of international rules developed over the long term that make the coexistence of peoples tolerable and that are supposed to limit the suffering of soldiers and above all of civilians in the event of military hostilities.  To put it dramatically, these civilizing achievements of humanity are at risk.   The Supreme Court in Washington has now at least put up a small stop sign on the way to monstrousness."  

 

BELGIUM:  "Guantanamo, A Gigantic Propaganda Machine For U.S. Adversaries"

 

Senior writer Hubert Van Humbeeck in liberal weekly Knack opined (7/7): "Because it was so reckless when it arrested people who were suspected of terrorist activities the U.S. government turned a number of weird men who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan into victims.  By denying them the right to a normal trial Guantanamo became a gigantic propaganda machine for America's adversaries.  The United States is in dire straits.  The longer the prisoners stay in Guantanamo the less it seems to be justified.  If they are set free, no court will ever convict them: the evidence that was collected there - under those circumstances - will be accepted nowhere. Today, the Supreme Court is trying to solve the problem.  It is willing to give the Guantanamo prisoners a chance to appear before normal American courts....  But, judicially, it is working in a vacuum.  The judges are now drafting the terrorism laws that the politicians failed to write.  Consequently, the arrest is a sneer at the U.S. Congress that simply did not do its job.  It approved a pompous program for the creation of an expensive domestic security system, but it failed to create a legal framework that makes it possible to bring prisoners suspected of terrorist activities to court."

 

CZECH REPUBLIC:  Not Even Bush Is Above Law

 

Radek Tomasek noted in the business Hospodarske noviny (7/8):  "The ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court [over the issue of whether enemies detained by the U.S. Army outside of U.S. territory (mainly the detainees at Guantanamo) have the right to be tried by American courts] has put an end to an unprecedented injustice.  The Court has shattered arguments of the Bush Administration claiming that Guantanamo is a territory not subject to law....  This ruling has substantially weakened the current U.S. Administration and the indirect consequence will be that part of the Guantanamo detainees will have to be released, so that their detention does not have to be defended in court....  The most important victory, however, is that the rule of law may never be influenced by anyone, however high his or her position may be.  Not even the U.S. President." 

 

DENMARK:  "Ruling On 'No-Man's Land' In Guantánamo"

 

The center-right Jyllands-Posten noted (Internet version, 6/30):  "For decades the American Guantánamo naval base has stood as a light of freedom in Cuba, the communist dictatorship.  But since the war on terror began on 11 September 2001, Guantánamo has unfortunately come to look like a no-man's land in international legal and juridical terms for the approximately 600 people sitting interned at the base as 'enemy combatants.'  For far too many people the world over their unusual status has left the impression that the United States is not completely a state ruled of the law.  The Supreme Court of the United States has now hammered a stake through that view in two rulings to firmly state that those people who are interned at Guantánamo as 'enemy combatants' have the right to 'a significant chance to contest the factual basis for their internment.'....  The Supreme Court [also] does not want to recognize the Bush government's interpretation that, technically speaking, Guantánamo is a no-man's land because the base is located in Cuba....  The rulings are satisfying evidence that the United States is a society ruled by law, even if the consequences are difficult to grasp....  There is every possible reason to regret that it took such a long time before the Guantánamo prisoners' rights were clarified.  It would have been to the USA's credit if that condition had been put in place before the first prisoner arrived at the base."

 

FINLAND:  "Vain Attempt At Legitimacy"

 

Max Arhippainen wrote in Swedish-language center-right Helsinki Hufvudstadsbladet (Internet Version, 7/11):  "The US Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners at Guantanamo have the right to be heard  before a federal court in the United States.  The Bush administration's response is that the cases  of all the 584 prisoners will be investigated by specially created tribunals.  This is a vain attempt to lend legitimacy to what is happening at the military base.  The prisoners are allowed  neither to defend themselves under American law nor demand to be treated as prisoners of war under  the Geneva Convention.  It is of course a step forward that the prisoners are being given even the  possibility of being heard.  But an improvised tribunal of US officers at which the prisoners are  dealt with without any right of legal assistance does not smooth over the flagrant US violation of  all the principles of a rule-of-law state."

 

 "A Glimmer Of Light At Guantánamo"

 

Sture Gadd opined in left-of-center, Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet (Internet version, 6/30):  "It has been a scandal that the United States of America has held several hundred prisoners at Guantánamo without trial and under loathsome conditions.  The U.S. demand that Americans not be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court and the reports from Abu Ghraib have strengthened the impression of American self-righteousness and arrogance.  The Supreme Court in the United States has now found that the prisoners at Guantánamo can bring their cases before the courts--a matter that ought to be obvious.  The decision is a serious and welcome rebuke of President Bush's government.  Those who tell everyone else what is right must follow similar demands themselves."

 

IRELAND:  "They Are Not Lawful Combatants In A Lawful War"

 

Kevin Myers held in the center-left Irish Times  (7/7):  "Are the people in Guantanamo Bay innocent civilians?....  So put yourself in the position of the US president.... You say that these people were combatants in Afghanistan, serving either the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Does it make any sense whatever to let these people return to their homelands to reconnect with the terrorist networks which send them to Afghanistan in the first place? What about the Geneva Conventions?..  None of the Geneva Conventions apply to them because they are not lawful combatants in a lawful war. Which is not to say that they shouldn't be treated humanely. But they are prisoners, and there is no way that the US can simply allow them their freedom while the global war continues. In a sense, it's a great shame that George Bush announced the global war on terror as if the initiative were being taken by him and the U.S.  In fact, the opposite was the case. The war began in the last century, and it erupted right across the world at the instigation of Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. They are waging jihad against the infidel, and their holy war knows no boundaries, nor law, nor convention, nor restraint."

 

"Historic Guantánamo Bay Ruling Has Wide Implications"

 

Dr. Ray Murphy, a lecturer in law at the National University in Galway, commented in the center-left Irish Times (6/30):  "The U.S. Supreme Court decision that 600 Guantánamo Bay inmates can challenge their detention is a setback for the Bush administration....  The members of the Supreme Court seemed aware of the historic nature of the decision and its wider implications for the review of executive decisions by the judiciary....  The liberal and conservative wings of the court found common ground in the conclusion that the U.S. president had gone too far.  However, the judgments still leave many questions unanswered.  Lawyers will now have to move swiftly to test the scope of the ruling....  To date the Bush administration has disregarded the provisions of the [Geneva] convention with impunity.  The Supreme Court decision will allow each detainee to have the legality of his detention reviewed by a federal court.  It does not mean that those detained will automatically be released.  Nor does it prevent trial by specially constituted military commissions....  In the long term the U.S. has most to lose by its current policy regarding the Taliban and al-Qaida detainees.  Conflicts in Iraq and elsewhere show that U.S. soldiers will continue to need the very protection their own government denied those captured in Afghanistan.  A true measure of the strength of a democracy and its commitment to human rights can be determined by the manner in which it responds to crisis and real threats, even of the proportions caused by the September 11th atrocities."

 

NETHERLANDS:  "No Blank Check"

 

Influential, liberal De Volkskrant commented (6/30):  "A state of war does not give the president a 'blank check' when civil rights are at stake.  On the basis of this principle the Supreme Court decided that all 'enemy combatants' have the right to challenge their detention before an American court....  The Supreme Court ruling is unmistakably a painful defeat for the Bush administration but at the same time this is also a triumph of the American system of checks and balances.  A triumph that is brought out in full by the fact that the government has been reprimanded by the same Supreme Court, which, in the conflict over the Florida votes, has been so helpful toward the president."

 

"Bush's Power"

 

Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad editorialized (6/29):  "The same judges who helped George W. Bush get into the White House after the controversial election battle with Al Gore now have reprimanded the U.S. president.  The 'hostile combatants' in Guantánamo now have the right to go to an American court to contest their detention....  It is still unclear what will become of the prisoners at Guantánamo....  The position adopted by the American government that Guantánamo is a juridical black hole has turned out to be unacceptable.  It is about time for a round of 'lessons learned' in the White House."

 

NORWAY:  "Guantanamo To Be Investigated"

 

Leading national daily Oslo Aftenposten commented (Internet Version, 7/9):  "....What was special about the Supreme Court's ruling was that the court stated that US law also applies at Guantanamo and that the detainees have a right to have their cases tried before US courts.   Here the court reverted to principles which were laid down in English law as long ago as 1215 in the Magna Charta and which were later included in US law.   The principle is embarrassingly simple:   No one can be kept prisoner, be deprived of his belongings, be declared an outlaw, or sent into exile without being sentenced in a court of his peers and in line with the laws of the land....  This review is late in coming and it is by no means certain that it will bring any good with it....  As a result of the Supreme Court's ruling, the way has now been opened for each and every one of the currently 595 internees to be able to have their cases tried before US courts, or for them to be set free because there is no foundation for keeping them prisoner.  This is the essence of the Supreme Court's ruling and it is something that the administration in Washington must comply with, as soon as possible.

 

"Serious Rap For Bush"

 

Per Egil Hegge commented in the newspaper of record Aftenposten (7/1):  "In addition to the problems in Iraq and NATO, President George W. Bush has received a strong rap over his fingers from the U.S. Supreme Court, which this week denied the administration's legal thinking and handling regarding POWs....  A particularly serious setback for Bush is that the thinking of the White House has been branded as legally, constitutionally and also to a large extent ethically unacceptable."

 

SPAIN:  "Close Guantanamo"

 

El País, left-of-center daily, wrote (7/6):  "....The Bush Administration has lost no time setting up military tribunals in response to the decision of the Supreme Court that the Guantanamo detainees are entitled to habeas corpus....  The fact that the detainees are enemies or illegal combatants caught outside the US....  is not a reason for denying them their rights as the Bush Administration insisted after 9/11....  But....  what most important is that the Administration selected Guantanamo as a legal maneuver to interrogate these prisoners outside the margins of the law.  That is why, after the decision of the Supreme Court, [the Administration] is [morally] obliged to close the center of detention in the island, and to transfer the prisoners to the US as some jurists are asking for, and provide for an open and fair trial.  The judge of the Supreme Court, Sandra O'Connor, has reminded that there one must stay true at home to those principles for which we are fighting for abroad."

 

"The Limbo Or The Law"

 

Conservative ABC held (6/30):  "What has happened with the unusual regime of detention that the U.S. administration created at the military base of Guantánamo is a good lesson for those who believe in democracy....  However....  these persons weren't at Guantánamo because of a banal offense....  For this reason it would be a dangerous mistake now to interpret the judgment of the Supreme Court as a defeat of the U.S. government [as it also]....  recognizes [the legitimacy of] the detentions.  When the rule of law shines, is always a victory for the democracy, because it reaffirms that is the best system to effectively govern the cohabitation of people and countries.  And, in this case with more reason because it has been proved that freedom even effectively protects those who want to end it by force."

 

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

 

AUSTRALIA:  "Respect For The Law Defines Democracies"

 

The national conservative Australian stated (7/13): "The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court that terror suspects cannot be left in the legal limbo of indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay will likely delight Osama bin Laden. He will be equally pleased by the ruling of Israel's Supreme Court that the country's defensive wall, designed to protect it from terror attacks, must come down where it too severely disrupts Palestinian communities. Both decisions demonstrate the great weakness of democracies in fighting terror - their governments are subject to the law, even when it harms the national interest....  Balancing the rights of individuals against national security is especially difficult in this new type of war on terror. The US Supreme Court has decided Hicks, Habib and their peers enjoy the protection of US civil law, which could make it easier for them to win their freedom. But as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor defined the challenge for democracies, 'We must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we

fight abroad.'"

 

"Guantánamo Ruling A Victory For Justice"

 

The liberal Age of Melbourne commented (6/30):  "David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib and others can no longer be denied due process....  In time of war, the Administration has argued, extraordinary measures are required, including some that violate due process.  The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the foreign prisoners at Guantánamo and related rulings concerning U.S. citizens do not deal directly with the issue of the military commissions, but they do repudiate the notion that a state of war is what the court called 'a blank check for the president.'....  Whether [the Guantánamo detainees]....  are ultimately convicted or acquitted, they cannot be denied the just hearing that the U.S. administration wished to deny them. The Australian government was all too willing to acquiesce in that denial."

 

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Liberty, Not Hypocrisy Must Underpin Freedom Tower"  

 

The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (7/6):  "The war on terrorism that followed September 11 has curtailed civil liberties within the U.S. and created a fortress mentality at its borders.  The unlawful detention of prisoners captured after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan has yet to end, while the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq has only stoked the flames of insurgency in the still-unstable country.  The roots of these controversies can be found in the defiance of the values the new tower and America are said to stand for.  Arguably, ending the hypocrisy would help make the U.S. and its allies safer.  As the U.S. Supreme Court justices noted in their recent ruling on the need to grant Guantanamo prisoners access to the courts, a state of war does not give authorities a blank cheque to trample on rights promised in the American constitution.  Renewed commitment to the ideals - in deed and not just word - would be a fitting tribute to those who died in 2001.  The dedication of the new World Trade Centre building reminds us that we have yet to solve the main post-September 11 challenge: how to have security without giving up cherished liberties."

 

NEW ZEALAND:  "Justice To Be Served"

 

The Otago Daily Times provided an editorial (7/3):  So, another pillar of President George W Bush's Iraq adventure has been destroyed:  no weapons of mass destruction found; no linkage proved between Al Qaeda and the September 11 mass murders; and now, no justification to deny "detainees" their civil rights.  President Bush and his administration can draw little comfort from these substantial defeats but theAmerican people at least can feel confident about the strength of their constitution, for the Supreme Court has shown that in a open democracy, tyrannical actions, even those of a President, can be and are subject to exposure and restraint....  The court ruled everyone was entitled to contest their detention. By so doing the court has helped re-establish the proper balance between the demands of national security and the certainty of individual civil liberties in both war and peace. In future proceedings, the American government will also be obliged to justify detentions. However, a Supreme Court ruling is one thing; when or even whether the "detainees" get their chance to tell their story in an ordinary court before a jury is quite another. It is not clear how the court's decisions will be interpreted by the Bush administration, especially with respect to "detainees" held outside the mainland....  In affirming that in the United States, rules and laws apply to all, no matter who the accused or the accuser may be, the Supreme Court's decision is reassuring in the face of actions of callous indifference to civil liberties. The actions of President Bush and his chief advisers are important reminders to everyone living in a democracy that no government can ever be trusted not to abuse the power it claims, and that individual freedom should never rest on any government's claims of benevolence.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

 

INDIA:  "Guantanamo, Gaza, And India" 

 

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavananalysis opined in the centrist The Hindu (7/9):  "The American Supreme Court's decisions of June 28, 2004, on the Guantanamo Bay detenus merit far greater scrutiny than the generally euphoric applause that has greeted them....  The core question before the Court was whether the U.S. administration had the power to detain what it called `enemy combatants' - a phrase which, according to the Court, eluded exact description....  The idea that an administration can detain people without clear provisions authorizing detention is wholly subversive of the rule of law. The Guantanamo Bay majority judgments effectively authorize American forces to detain anyone - innocent or otherwise - in the war zone, declare them to be `enemy combatants' and interrogate them, leaving them to challenge not the basis but broadly the conditions and length of detention. This effectively confirms the near absolutist imperial military power of America to preserve the lawfulness of the legal black hole while allowing some fragments of legality to penetrate its density....  Normally, courts are very reluctant to interfere with what the military does. But recent judgments show how courts can become the conscience keepers of the army. Even though most of the Israeli Army's military strategies are harsh, Chief Justice Aharon Barak of the Israeli Supreme Court led the way in putting humanitarian restraints on the Army's maneuvers. In the Physicians for Human Rights judgment (May 30, 2004), the Court refused to go into military strategy questions of Israel's presence in the Gaza Strip, but directed the provision of water, electricity, evacuation of the wounded, investigations into firing and medical support in the area.  There are several thresholds of judicial intervention. At the lowest level is the American Guantanamo Bay judgment, which condones and legitimates the unlawfulness of America's military actions while affording a minimal due process. At the next level, come a large number of judgments requiring a humanitarian due process from the army....  The Guantanamo decisions have different meanings for different people. For liberal Americans, some light is shed on a legal black hole. For all of us, America's military powers are enhanced with a thin coat of sugar. For the cause of American civil liberties, these judgments are a step forward. For the rest of us, they leap backwards to legalize the patently unlawful. American justice simply does not offer enough on Guantanamo."

 

"Historic Decision Of American Supreme Court"

 

An editorial in independent Urdu daily Munsif held (7/3): "The ruling of the American Supreme Court allowing the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detention is to be welcomed by the whole civilized world.  In a sense, the ruling is even path breaking given the common perception of the American Supreme Court that it is guided in its decisions generally by national interests, military strategy and the political exigencies of the government rather than by the principles of unbiased justice and human considerations. It is this characteristic of the American judicial system that allowed the inhuman and Draconian laws to be enacted under the excuse of fighting terror after the 9/11 tragedy.  Hundreds of prisoners continued to be brutally tortured and humiliated and the American Supreme Court remained completely unmoved as it refused to entertain several petitions seeking justice for more than 600 helpless victims of American savagery in Guantanamo. One may hope that the Supreme Courts' recent ruling will help the justice prevail."

 

"No Blank Checks For Bush"

 

The nationalist Hindustan Times commented (Internet version, 7/1):  "The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that the inmates of Guantánamo Bay could challenge their confinement is a huge victory for human rights advocates.  The detention of 595 alleged members of the Taliban and al-Qaida at Guantánamo Bay....  has been a big scar on the face of the Bush administration's conduct of the war against global terrorism.  The U.S. has flouted all principles of civil liberties in refusing the detainees access to legal aid and holding them for months and years without charging them with any crime.  The Supreme Court judgment can also be seen as a severe indictment of the U.S. government's contention that the president, as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had the authority to detain 'enemy combatants'.  Guantánamo Bay has come to represent a misuse of the....  U.S. congressional resolution allowing Mr Bush to use 'all necessary and appropriate force' against al-Qaida and the Taliban....  With the American apex court pushing for due process, the Pentagon has at last set up military tribunals...to try the cases of three Guantánamo prisoners.  The cardinal principle of the modern justice system, of which the U.S. claims to be a great advocate, is that all persons are presumed innocent till proven guilty, and that the accused have the right to have their day in court, be they foreign nationals or dreaded terrorists.  Given the miscarriage of justice till now, the process must be transparent, free and fair and ensure that justice is done."

 

PAKISTAN:  "Forgotten Prisoners"

 

The centrist national English daily, The News, posited (07/02):  "The report that the long forgotten prisoners of the infamous Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are likely to be shifted to United States on the basis of an American Supreme Court ruling is most welcome news....  This is a most unfortunate situation and needs to be strongly condemned. Apart from the fact the Americans had no right to take them out of Afghanistan, keeping them in a state of limbo is equally deplorable.  There is no reason why they could not have been investigated and tried in Afghanistan....  American laws are not a part of the criminal code of other states.  Moreover, humanitarian compulsions demand that prisoners are released immediately and their suffering ended. 

 

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

 

CANADA:  "Bush's Stubbornness"

 

Editorialist Serge Truffaut commented in the liberal Le Devoir (07/09): "Ten days ago, the United States Supreme Court declared that the inmates at Guantanamo Bay had rights until then unrecognized by the Bush administration. Outraged by the affront, Pentagon bosses conceived a parade that illustrates how fanatical they are. Evidently, the Pentagon is determined to counter any offensive that would end the legal vacuum giving them a free hand in all matters related to the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz just signed a decree stating that military courts will be called to examine each case. As requested by Wolfowitz and approved by the Presidency, these courts will determine whether the enemy combatant status, by which more than 600 people have been detained, is justified or not. Clearly, if someone's status is confirmed, that person will remain in Guantanamo....  Each prisoner who asks these courts to study his case will be assisted by an American officer, not an attorney, who will help him build his case. No more. If he wishes to call witnesses, he will be able to do so under the condition that the witnesses are....  'reasonably available'! What is this parody of justice? How, for example, do you call, for instance, a witness living in Afghanistan? Officially, the Bush administration says it hopes that this measure will be in accordance with last week's Supreme Court conclusions. Unofficially, they are betting the measure in question will so depress the detainees that they will abandon all recourse. They want to gain time, as much time as possible, so that the question is not referred to any federal court before the elections. Clearly, the decision by a judge to free a hundred or so enemy combatants before the final round between Bush and John Kerry would not be appreciated in high places....  It is necessary to note the legal ambiguity that distinguishes Guantanamo Bay. In this matter, Bush, Wolfowitz and their consorts had claimed that the treaty signed with Cuba stated that Guantanamo Bay was under the sovereignty of Cuba. But this same treaty also states that the United States has jurisdiction over the area. Better, that they control it. Naturally, it is this paragraph that was emphasized by members of the Supreme Court....  The retort conceived by Wolfowitz with the approval of the White House is an affront to the Supreme Court. So much so that one can ask whether it is not also an affront to the Constitution."

 

"Long Arm of the Law Nabs Bush"

 

Haroon Siddiqui, editorial page editor emeritus for left-of-center Toronto Star, commented in the Star (Internet Version, 7/8):  "Post-9/11 America suffered a near-breakdown of the democratic checks and balances on the executive branch of government by the legislature, independent law enforcement agencies, the courts,the media and public opinion.  All became blindly patriotic. It's only now - after the Iraq fiasco and the growing crisis of confidence at home - that they are reasserting their role, in varying degrees....  But no institution has intervened with as much force and legal authority as the U.S. Supreme Court in stating that the Bush administration cannot continue to operate above the law.The magnitude of what the judges have just done comes into focus when you consider that they are the same people who made George W. Bush president after the Florida recount; that their philosophical bent has been conservative; and that,

historically, the court has been deferential to presidents in times of war, as in 1944 when approving Franklin D. Roosevelt's shameful detention of Japanese Americans. The court did not just reject the Bush administration's idea of holding terrorism suspects indefinitely without recourse to the courts or lawyers.   The judges demolished its entire rationale....  Cumulatively, the court's message was loud and clear:  Bush's endless war on terrorism is not a license to hold Americans or even foreigners without recourse to the courts."

 

"Limited Powers"

 

The centrist Winnipeg Free Press editorialized (7/2): "The United States Supreme Court this week re-asserted the power of courts to review the U.S. government's use of its power to detain people it thinks are terrorists or irregular fighters. The courts have not yet ordered release of any of the Bush administration's detained persons, but it has opened a door that could lead to such release....  Courts may yet find that all these detainees were properly kept in custody, though no charges have been laid against them and they have been given no opportunity to challenge the government's evidence before an impartial tribunal. Because of the Supreme Court's rulings, however, they may now be able to require the government to lay a charge, produce its evidence and release any accused who are not found guilty. This should greatly strengthen the moral and political position of the United States in its international quest for support in its war against terrorism. Until now, the Bush administration has been leading a fight for freedom but has, at the same time, denied fundamental rights to the people it accuses of fighting on the other side. This has weakened Mr. Bush's and America's claim to be the champion of freedom. The Supreme Court has corrected that weakness in the American argument."

 

"Limits To U.S. Detention"

 

The leading Globe and Mail held (Internet version, 6/30):  "Inescapably, the insistence on the rule of law is what separates democracies from tyrannies, even in wartime.  U.S. President George W. Bush has at times been fighting the war on terrorism as if he were above the law.  At an American jail at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in jails on U.S. soil, his administration has held prisoners for two years beyond the review of the courts.  This week, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a decision for the ages, reminded Mr. Bush why democracies expect courts to review the actions of their leaders....  The question before the court was the most elemental one a democracy can ask of itself:  in defending against terrorists and other enemies, how far can the president go to strengthen security at the expense of liberty?...  It is true that the stakes in defending the country are great...and that fighting terror requires hard-to-obtain intelligence, of which enemy prisoners may be a good source.   Even so, Mr. Bush is wrong in his apparent belief that he can fight terrorism as he sees fit simply because he is on the side of good and the law is meant to restrain the bad guys.  The rule of law matters more than good intentions, as the abuses at Abu Ghraib...remind us.  The judges made that point by invoking not Abu Ghraib but the Magna Carta, habeas corpus and the U.S. Founding Fathers....  The Founders knew war and were certain it would come again, so they insisted on a strong constitution.  The reasons, as the judges said, are inescapable."

 

NICARAGUA:  "Bush Loses In The Supreme Court And The U.S. Wins"

 

Leftist Managua daily El Nuevo Diario ran an op-ed signed by Michael C. Dorf, a professor at Columbia University (7/1):  "In two verdicts this week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the enormous power claimed by President Bush during wartime. In the Yacer Hamdi case, the court rejected the Government's assumption that the military  could hold a U.S. citizen indefinitely because he was an 'enemy combatant' without giving him a chance to refute the cause of his detention before an impartial authority....  In less than four years, President Bush and his advisors have done away with a great part of the long-standing bipartisan consensus that the U.S. should cooperate with multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. The majority of judges in the Guantanamo case, alarmed by this drastic change, might be trying to say to the world - in order to keep it calm - President Bush does not speak for every American, not even those who voted for him to begin with....  Yes, the existence of religious fanatics who want to kill a large number of innocent U.S. civilians justifies a firm response, but the Court rulings affirm the fundamental principle that not even the worst dangers justify the type of general deference to which Bush's government thinks it has a right to each time he says the words 'war' and 'terrorism.'"

 

PARAGUAY:   "US Justice" 

 

Fourth largest Asuncion daily La Nacion ran a guest column which lauded the Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo detainees' access to legal representation and civilian courts (7/4):  "The Supreme Courts had to intervene in order to halt the Executive Branch's actions.  In a decision that will have historic consequences....  the Court pronounced that a US citizen captured in Afghanistan has the right to have a civil court determine if his detention is legal....  the arguments by the Bush Administration that anyone can be detained indefinitely is pathetic and goes against the principles on which this country is based."

 

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO:  "Proper Rebuke For Mr. Bush"

 

The tabloid style Express newspapers editorialized (7/10):  "....Non-American critics of the Bush administration, of which this newspaper can be numbered, can sometimes overlook the fact that any incumbent administration in Washington is but a branch of the government of the United States....  It may have taken as long as two years, but the lawyers who took the case to the US Supreme Court have now been fully vindicated in that the court has ruled Mr. Bush completely out of order....  Perhaps this latest ruling will simply remind the Bush administration that war or no war, it cannot simply abandon the rules of civilised conduct...." 

 

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