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The "Disappeared" in the War Against Terrorism: Detention, Due Process and the Right to a Lawyer


Joe Margulies, Margulies & Richman, PLC

May 15, 2003


Summary of Remarks

Joe Margulies, attorney for several detainees at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, spoke in May about the detainees' lack of legal status, the undignified conditions of their detention, and their rights under U.S. and international law.  Margulies technically represents four of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, but the Bush administration denies that his clients have any legally enforceable rights. He has never spoken with his clients and has no knowledge of the reason for their detention. In fact, his clients have no knowledge of where they are being detained and are not aware that an American attorney is arguing through the U.S. court system for their right to due process.


For Margulies, the administration's war on terrorism has become a war on the rule of law. He argued that the Bush administration has created an "alternative universe" at Guantanamo Bay where no legally enforceable rules apply - detainees are considered beyond the jurisdiction of any court, have no legal rights, and their treatment is not subject to judicial or congressional review.


Those circumstances, Margulies said, are unprecedented in modern democratic history. The detainees have no opportunity to establish their innocence. He said guilt should be a legal status determined through judicial process, not administrative order.  He argued that the executive branch has created the term "enemy combatants" - a term without legal or military status - as part of its effort to deny detainees the rights afforded to them by international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions as well as the protections of the U.S. court system.




Joe Margulies is an attorney for several detainees at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He received his B.A., with honors, from Cornell University in 1982, and his J.D., cum laude, from Northwestern University School of Law in 1988.  After clerking for a federal judge in Chicago, Margulies joined the staff of the Texas Capital Resource Center, where he represented men and women on Texas' death row, eventually becoming Senior Staff Attorney.  In 1994, Margulies moved to Minneapolis, where he worked for two years as a Staff Attorney with the Minnesota Legal Rights Center.  In 1996, he entered private practice, and is now a principal in the firm of Margulies & Richman, PLC, specializing in criminal defense and civil rights litigation.  Along with lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, Margulies is also counsel in Rasul et al. v. Bush et al., filed in Washington, D.C., on behalf of four detainees held in Guantanamo Bay.  Margulies writes and lectures widely on capital and criminal defense, as well as civil liberties in the wake of September 11.


Related Materials

Amnesty International report, "United States of America: The Threat of a Bad Example - undermining international standards as "war on terror" detentions continue"


More Resources on Human Rights and the Guantanamo Bay Detainees