Social Workers Congratulate the Supreme Court for Decision to Support Human Rights and Social Justice for Detainees

Jun 12, 2008

NASW filed Amicus Brief with other human rights organizations

Upholding the profession of social work’€™s commitment to human rights and social justice, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) congratulates the Supreme Court on their decision to allow Guantanamo detainees the ability to challenge their detention through our Constitutional system of government checks and balances.

The appellate court decisions in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S., represented a clear violation of the rights of these detainees to gain timely access to the courts and to question the legality of their detention through the writ of habeas corpus. In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and struck down the Military Commissions Act of 2006 as unconstitutional, stating, Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law. The cases did not directly address the innocence or guilt of the detainees, but rather the circumstances in which they are being held and their access to independent judicial review.

Social workers are very pleased that the key tenets of the profession – social justice and human rights – are being upheld in these cases by the highest court taking a stand against the unchecked use of power by the executive branch, said Dr. Elvira Craig de Silva, NASW president. This decision solidifies that everyone may have access to justice and basic legal rights under our Constitutional system of government.

The NASW Code of Ethics notes that one of the core values of the profession is social justice. To achieve social justice, governments must be able to guarantee access to due process of law.

The amicus brief was filed by The Constitution Project, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch and The Rutherford Institute through the efforts of a pro bono legal team from Fulbright & Jaworski in Washington, DC. NASW, along with a coalition of other non-governmental organizations, signed on to the brief, which was filed in August 2007.

For more information about this and other briefs that NASW files on behalf of the social work profession, please visit the NASW Legal Defense Fund.

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