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Civil Liberties, Habeas Corpus Essay

Civil Liberties, Habeas Corpus, and the War on Terror have all played a role throughout history. Throughout history, the motivation of man’s self interest has concluded in the domination of those with little or no power in the absence of the rule of law. The war on terror presents an unpredictable challenge for the United States since terrorists are apprehended and deprived of due process. Habeas corpus is considered to be one of the most fundamental guarantees of personal liberty that we cherished as a country since the inception of our Constitution.

However, debates have arisen regarding the proper use of habeas corpus making the focus be brought back in the past decade. Since September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, many people have been detained by the U. S. government as part of its war on terror. Many of these detainees face indefinite detention and have not yet been charged with a crime. The right of Habeas corpus overrules man’s interpretation and allows those accused federal and state court representation before a judge, or jury.

The accusers deemed innocent until proven guilty, they have the right to representation, and appear in person for the charges brought forth. The purpose of this paper is to show how Habeas corpus came about, and its suspension by the United States. Also, the war on terror will be addressed along with the Supreme Court’s interpretation. Learning the history of Habeas corpus and how it works, allows us to see just how these laws are supposed to be carried out from our Constitution and not to be reconciled with.

Habeas corpus is a judicially enforceable order issued by a court of law to the prison official ordering that a prisoner be brought to court so it can be determined whether or not has been lawfully imprisoned or should be released from custody. The right of Habeas corpus is the constitutionally bestowed right of a person to present evidence before a court of law, showing that he/she has been wrongly imprisoned. Habeas corpus is granted in Article l of the Constitution which states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the Public Safety may require it. (Farrell, Iowa College)

Habeas Corpus Petition is a petition filed with a court when someone objects to his own or another’s imprisonment. The petition mush show that the court ordering the imprisonment made a legal or factual error. The laws are put forth for a fair trial and freedom from laws passed after the fact. Ultimately, they protect us from the whim of those powers, and distinguish a government of laws from government of men. The historical evolution of Habeas corpus born from the Magna Carta, known as the English Bill of Rights, began in England in the early 1200s.

King John of England initiated long drawn out wars against people. Growing tired of King John’s lack of leadership, concerned for the citizens they decided to come up with the Magna Carta which would limit the amount of power his Monarchy had. By means of fear and violence the Baron’s forced the King to accept and acknowledge the agreement that would honor the constitutional rights, privilege, and the greater protection of the people. Upon signing it meant that it would be null and void forever. (Harringer, K. J, 2011)

The Magna Carta states, “no free man shall be taken or imprisoned or diseased or exiled or in any other way destroyed except by the lawful judgment of their peers or by the law of the land”. (Obban, 2011) Habeas corpus was unknown to many civil law systems in Europe. European civil law systems generally favored authority from the top down whereas Angelo-Saxon common law tends to favor the individual. The Angelo-Saxon common law comes from England, after the English Civil War and the beheading of King Charles l in 1649; it led to establishing a clear position between King and citizen.

Therefore, all the confrontation of top to bottom civil law principles continuously kept yielding with the ancient but law of the land. As a feature of common law, the right of Habeas corpus reflects the age old contest between individual and the state. Habeas corpus empowers the individual in holding accountable the exercise of the states power to influence liberty. Our founding fathers were well aware of the Magna Carta, and its astonishing abilities to be something great especially James Madison who was the primary architect of the American Bill of Rights.

Greatly influenced by the potential of the agreement, James Madison began his own interpretation. James Madison borrowed heavily from Article 39 of the Magna Carta which limited the legislative power. Madison was a key player in growing that particular article into the Bill of Rights. It was through Magna Carta and our founding fathers interpretation of that article that the American courts used and still use today when interpreting the rights of enemy combatants. (Halliday, 2011) September 24th 1862 Lincoln issued a proclamation suspending the writs of Habeas corpus nationwide and specified whose rights would be suspended.

All traitors and rebel militias against the U. S. shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment. (Longley, 2012) In 1866 after the American Civil War had ended the Supreme Court officially and fully restored Habeas corpus throughout the entire nation. That would not be the first time a president would suspend the writ of Habeas corpus. On October 17, 2006 President George Bush suspended the right of Habeas corpus by determining that certain persons were in fact “enemy combatant” during the Global War on Terror.

It came about from before the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, hundreds of people have been detained by the United States government as part of its war on terror at locations such as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Most of these detainees have faced indefinite detention and have neither been charged with a crime nor afforded prisoner of war Status. Many of these prisoners have sought out to use Habeas corpus proceedings to challenge the legality of their detention.

However, the government decided that their status as “enemy combatants” outside of the sovereign territory of the United States. In 2004, the United States Supreme Court determined that non-citizen detainees at Guantanamo Bay were entitled to file habeas corpus petitions in federal courts. Congress subsequently made a political determination as to the appropriate scope of habeas corpus and passed legislation that stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear Habeas corpus petitions brought by enemy combatants.

However, the ruling was shortly overturned which led to President George Bush signing the law of suspending the right of habeas corpus. President Bush’s action drew severe criticism, mainly for the law’s failure to specifically designate who in the United States will determine who is and who is not an “enemy combatant”. Both presidents received sharp criticism for carrying out what many believed to be an attack on the Constitution. President Bush suspended writs of Habeas corpus through his support and signing into law of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

The bill grants the President of the United States almost unlimited authority in establishing and conducting military commissions to try persons held by the U. S. on the Global War of Terrorism. In addition, the Act suspends the right of “unlawful enemy combatants” to present, or to have presented in their behalf. On June 12, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush, 5 to 4 that Guantanamo captives were entitled to access the U. S. justice system. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion: The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.

The Court also ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals were “inadequate”. Chief Justice John Stevens joined Kennedy in the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts, in the minority opinion, called the CSR Tribunals the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as “enemy combatants”. The Supreme Court ruling responded by Vincent Warren (executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights) actions. The Supreme Court has finally given the men held at Guantanamo the justice that always deserved.

By granting the right of Habeas corpus, the Supreme Court recognizes a rule of law that was established hundreds of years ago. This 6 year long crisis is a lesson on how fragile our constitutional protections truly are in the hands of very persistent executives. The role of presidents is a very hot topic throughout history on how they will act when the occasion arises with war on terror. I believe that many presidents have abused their power in the past against the Constitution and have taken measures into their own hands.

The role of the president is one of the hardest occupations out there since they decide on our fates of the future and our lives. Habeas corpus and the president’s role as commander-in-chief has to be terrifying when faced with the decision on what to do on situations of dealing with “enemy combatants”. Therefore, every president wants to carry out the Constitution, but when faced with protecting our Nation it would seem unbearable. I agree that Congress should be able to deny or overturn the president when it comes to Habeas corpus so that not just one person is deciding the fate of others.

Also, the Supreme Court should be the decision in the middle for a tie breaker so everyone gets the hearing that is deserved as fair and not unconstitutional. I do have concerns when it comes to our country war on terror because this is my nation and I want to protect it also. However, everyone has the right to a fair trial and is innocent until proven guilty; we also need to stick to the laws that our founding fathers intended for us so that the government cannot bend the rules on situations.

The evolution of Habeas corpus has brought out many key factors that our government needs follow. There have been many heated debates over the years on how we must not bend the laws that is why we have the Supreme Court and Congress stepping in over the commander-in-chief. Nevertheless, these laws are in place to protect everyone, moreover to avoid unlawful apprehension, and ensure that Habeas corpus works are intended by the Constitution.


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