WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has notified a judge that it is abandoning its bid to slap new restrictions on lawyers’ access to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Last month, the justice department filed notice that it was appealing a US federal judge’s order barring President Barack Obama’s administration from setting new rules governing legal visits and communications at the US military prison in southern Cuba.
“The government hereby respectfully requests that the court dismiss the appeal in the above-captioned matters, with each side to bear its own costs,” read the unopposed motion to voluntarily dismiss the appeal.
In a move that triggered outrage from lawyers, the Pentagon and the Justice Department had told attorneys representing Guantanamo prisoners that they could no longer access the jail unless they signed a memorandum of understanding that the court said gave officials overwhelming discretion over visits by lawyers.
The memo would have applied to prisoners who lost their appeals in court or whose cases were otherwise denied or dismissed.
Under the new rules, the lawyers would have also been subjected to restrictions on classified information gleaned from their clients.
In September, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth cited his opinion rejecting the move as he launched a diatribe against the judicial process at Guantanamo. He noted that since the first detainees were brought there a decade ago, “only a handful” have been tried or convicted.
The judge, who was appointed by Republican president Ronald Reagan, criticized Obama’s Democratic administration for engaging in an “illegitimate exercise of executive power” by trying to change the rules.
“In the case of Guantanamo detainees, access to the courts means nothing without access to counsel,” Lamberth added.