In times of national crisis civil liberties are sometimes abridged in exchange for greater security. The Framers, countenancing such an eventuality, granted to Congress the power to suspend the right to a writ of habeas corpus in times of rebellion or invasion. The war on terror has created many a rift in political, judicial and civil rights circles thus creating unique circumstances in regard to dealing with individuals detained due to acts of terrorism. The Habeas Corpus Act ensures that due process is given to those who believe they are innocent of charges set upon them. However those rights to habeas corpus are forfeited when they are found to be guilty of acts against the U.S and its territories and in so doing are not subject to the trials held in a civilian court whether they are citizens or not.
In this paper I look to examine the meaning of habeas corpus, its placement in the constitution and its impact on modern society’s laws, civil liberties and political/judicial stances.
What is Habeas Corpus?
HABEAS CORPUS is a term that was originated in the English legal system and is an important legal instrument in safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary state action. The writ (legal action) is issued in form of an order calling upon a person by whom another person is detained to bring that person before the court and to let the court know by what authority he has detained that person. If the cause shown discloses that detained person has been detained illegally the court will order that he be released thus the main object of the writ is to give quick and immediate remedy to a person who is unlawfully detained by the person whether in prison or private custody. This was later added to the constitution by the original framers. The rights of habeas corpus were granted in Article I, Section 9, clause 2 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." (www.archives.gov), this was so as to protect the statures of the federal and states as well as to preserve the assurance of personal liberties and civil rights.
But to get even further we must examine its origins. As stated, this legality originated in England and was adopted by many other countries including (but not limited to) the United States. The term Habeas Corpus is derived from Latin which means, “You may have the body” (www.latin-dictionary.org). This was a measure by which kings of England used to force people to testify in court. This was solidified later on by the Habeas Corpus act of 1679 in which King Charles II passed this through parliament. This procedural device was passed “to remedy a condition of indifference or disregard of the rights of the people which had through royal influence and other causes reached the point where the common law writ became so little respected that it no longer afforded real or substantial benefits to English subjects.” (www.uslegal.com)
Habeas Corpus in American History
In October 11, 2004, Yaser Hamdi arrived home in Saudi Arabia after being held incommunicado in U.S. Navy brigs for nearly three years. Without a hearing and without formal charges ever having been filed against him, Hamdi was detained as an “enemy combatant” following his seizure by Afghan allies of the United States, allegedly on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Hamdi’s release was part of a settlement negotiated by his defense counsel and the U.S. Department of Justice after the United States Supreme Court ruled in his favor on a writ of habeas corpus petition filed by his father. (L.A. TIMES, Oct. 12, 2004; WASH. POST, Oct. 13, 2004,). This is not the first time that the act of habeas corpus has been used and suspended. There have been other cases in which the act has been suspended. One such example was the suspension of habeas corpus in April 20, 1871. This suspension allowed for then president