Legislation Restoring Habeas Introduced

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif) introduced legislation this morning to restore a historic constitutional protection that was gutted by the passage of the Military Commissions Act last year. That protection is habeas corpus, an individual’s right to challenge the legality of his or her detention. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas responded to today’s developments with the following statement:

“Shortly before last year’s congressional elections, many members of Congress made the poor decision to vote for legislation that deprived U.S. detainees of habeas corpus relief. That bill was passed in a politically charged, pre-election environment providing little opportunity for thorough, thoughtful debate. The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus should not permanently fall prey to the shortsighted and cynical politics that characterized the 109th Congress. The 109th Congress played politics with a time-honored constitutional protection and the result has weakened our country. Members now have the opportunity to revisit the issue and overturn one of the more odious strikes at our constitutional core in our nation’s history.

“While last year’s legislation put us on a slippery slope toward ever-greater erosion of liberty, Representatives Nadler and Harman offer us hope for a halt to that slide with their introduction of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007. Habeas corpus has been a bulwark against tyranny in this country for more than 200 years. It prevents the government from abusing its power and imprisoning people for no reason, and it gives all of us the guarantee that if we are detained, we have the right to challenge the legality of the detention. This is America—the government should not have the power to make people disappear into legal black holes with no way to prove their innocence. While the judiciary could ultimately find last year’s legislation to be unconstitutional, the best approach is to undo legislative mistakes through the legislative process. The Nadler-Harman bill, along with companion legislation introduced in January by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.)—provides this Congress with the opportunity to restore a historic constitutional right. We urge members of Congress to pass this important legislation and the President to sign it into law.”

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