Questioning Habeas Corpus

It’s been a bit of a slower news day, plus I’ve been stuck at school, catching up on readings and trying to write a paper for Monday. All of which have put a slight damper on my will to write anything of original creative substance here.

Luckily for me, the Bush Administration never lets us down.

Yesterday US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced questions from a Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on the use of surveillance to combat terrorism. Today I read from Robert Parry that Gonzales openly questioned the existence of habeas corpus rights to citizens, arguing that the US Constitution only ensures there is “a prohibition against taking it away.”

Gonzales’s remark left Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, stammering.

“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”

Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.

“You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense,” Specter said.

Parry continues to describe how worrisome this is, as many rights are granted in much the same way. I encourage everyone to take a look at his article in full.

For those who lack an understanding of habeas corpus, from the BBC, on the historical meaning:

It is a writ which requires a person detained by the authorities be brought before a court of law so that the legality of the detention may be examined.

The name is taken from the opening words of the writ in medieval times.

Although rarely used nowadays, it can theoretically be demanded by anyone who believes they are unlawfully detained and it is issued by a judge.

It does not determine guilt or innocence, merely whether the person is legally imprisoned. It may also be writ against a private individual detaining another.

If the charge is considered to be valid, the person must submit to trial but if not, the person goes free.

The issue of habeas corpus has been of particular concern in relation to detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whom until recently have lacked any form of insight to their detainment.

Three member Tribunals consisting of military officials have been set up to process the detainees as a way of preserving the status-quo in Gitmo while creating an appearance of lawfulness. Unfortunately the tribunals lack any and all connections to the practices of modern international law, with detainees lacking the ability to select their own lawyers, protest their detention, hear the reasons they are being detained, or refute evidence obtained during torture and duress.


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