Kentridge set for court battle with Bush over Guantanamo

Three English barristers, including Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, are set to go face-to-face with the might of George Bush’s legal team in a direct challenge to his policies at Guantanamo Bay.

Kentridge, whose long career of conducting landmark human rights cases stretches back to representing Nelson Mandela in 1961, will be joined by Colin Nicholls QC, a well-known fraud specialist at 3 Raymond Buildings, and Timothy Otty, a junior government barrister at 20 Essex Street.

Their role as amicus briefs on behalf of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) forms one part of a large claim against George Bush for his indefinite detention of prisoners at the notorious Cuban jail for suspected terrorists.

The lead claimants are British citizens Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, who have been released from the camp. The others in the landmark action – the outcome of which is likely to influence whether Bush spends another term in office – are two Australians and 12 Kuwaitis. The case is due to start on 20 April.

The small but powerful team of English barristers will argue that Bush breached US law in not giving the prisoners the right to a trial before they were imprisoned. US law on habeas corpus is based on English law that has been applied throughout the Commonwealth.

Another key point is whether they should be treated the same as enemy combatants of countries at war with the US, who are denied the right to a trial.

It is understood that the main legal arguments in the case, due to be heard before the US Chief Justice, will be restricted to around 30 minutes each.

The barristers’ instructing solicitors are Washington litigation and government law specialists Shea & Gardner.