Why The Habeas Corpus Ruling Was So Right
By James Donahue
Senator John McCain recently
blasted the U.S. Supreme Court, saying its 5-4 ruling granting Guantanamo Bay detainees the right of habeas corpus “one
of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”
McCain, who seeks to succeed
George W. Bush as president under the GOP banner, lamented that the ruling will cause a wave of frivolous challenges that
will tie up Justice Department lawyers for years.
McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner
of war, said he has worked to ensure that the U.S. military does not torture prisoners but said the detainees at Guantanamo
are still “enemy combatants. These are people who are not citizens. They do not and never have been given the rights
that citizens in this country have.”
He added that it is his opinion
that “there are some bad people down there.”
Most outspoken among the dissenting
judges was Justice Antonin Scalia, who said the ruling harbored the “ultimate, unexpressed goal” of extending
the ruling far beyond the Cuban naval base and give courts “the power to review the confinement of enemy prisoners held
by the Executive anywhere in the world.” He used words like disastrous, devastating and tragic to describe the ruling.
In contrast, Democratic presidential
candidate Barack Obama said in a statement that the court decision “ensures that we can protect our nation and bring
terrorists to justice while also protecting our core values.
decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo – yet
another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation
committed to the rule of law.”
We believe Obama is dead-on
correct in his assessment of this issue.
Because it is a Latin phrase,
the name habeas corpus may be confusing to most Americans, but it is a vital legal check that protects our Constitutional
right against arbitrary and unlawful arrest and imprisonment.
The words habeas corpus mean
“you have the body.” In other words, once a person is placed under arrest and his body held in a prison cell,
our laws give that individual the right to demand that the court review his case and decide if he or she is imprisoned lawfully
or be released.
All U.S. citizens have the
right to seek release by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which, in effect, forces a judge to review his or
Many of the prisoners held
at Guantanamo were arrested shortly after 9-11 and they have been held there, without legal counsel or the right to have a
judge review their guilt ever since. Now that the high court has opened the door to habeas corpus, information about other
illegal activities is beginning to emerge.
At one time, it is believed
that up to 750 “suspects” were held at Guantanamo Bay. About 250 of these have been released or transferred to
custody of their native countries. Many of these were quickly released after authorities found no evidence of criminal activity.
When all is said and done,
we must wonder how many actual “enemy combatants” are being held at the base, and how many innocent civilians
have been caught up in the Bush “War on Terror” net and held behind bars all those years without cause.
If Americans believe that our
citizens have the right to habeas corpus, then why do we not believe all citizens of our planet deserve equal treatment? Who
are we to hold people of other nations in our prisons without giving them the same respect and right that our Constitution
guarantees us? Does Mr. Bush think Americans are superior to everyone else?
The last major world player
that thought that way was named Adolph Hitler.