Prisoners Guantanamo military prison
© T. McCoy/Handout/Reuters
Prisoners in a holding area at the notorious Guantanamo Bay in Cuba
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the indefinite detention of detainees suspected of terror activities who have yet to be charged after being held for nearly two decades at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The case was brought by lawyers for Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni citizen born and raised in Saudi Arabia, who was in northern Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, when the United States began its post-9/11 military operation. He has been indefinitely detained at the detention center, sometimes referred to as "Gitmo," for 17 years.

"In my judgment, it is past time to confront the difficult question left open" by the Supreme Court's 2004 ruling on who could be detained under the 2001 authorization for use of military force, said Justice Stephen Breyer in a statement. Breyer did not dissent from the court's order but suggested that in a future case, the justices should look carefully at the issue.

"Over the last 17 years, the Supreme Court has largely stayed out of the merits of the Guantanamo cases, stepping in only to assert the role of the federal courts in hearing these disputes, but leaving the substantive legal issues to the lower courts," said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

"But with 40 men still in detention there, and with no meaningful indication that that's going to change any time soon, Justice Breyer is, I think quite rightly, suggesting that it's incumbent upon the Court to weigh in on whether the a 2001 statute continues to justify holding these men, potentially in perpetuity."