Monday, November 14, 2005

The Great Writ and the Meager Congress

I have leant the tiny voice of this blog to this fight, and I'm almost glad (who can be "glad" under such circumstances, about such a topic) to see the issue finally going mainstream (you can follow that trail of bread crumbs beginning here).

From the Denver Post:

We recently returned from visiting with several prisoners in Guantánamo Bay's military prison, where there are still hundreds of faceless, uncharged prisoners who have been held for nearly four years without ever seeing an attorney.

When many of these prisoners arrived in American custody, they were initially relieved to be in the control of a country that valued justice and due process.

Four years later, many just want to die. They starve themselves for long periods of time and attempt bloody suicides. The government responds by forcing tubes down their throats. People are trying to kill themselves to get out of custody, because they have no legal recourse. "They won't let us live, but they won't let us die," one of our clients explained.
Why "good"? Because it proves there is decency and respect for the rule of law in the world, for what John Mortimer's "Bailey hack" Horace Rumpole called the "golden thread" that runs through our jurisprudence from across the pond and out of the deep mists of English history:

These men believe they are being kept as scapegoats by an administration afraid to admit it has made a mistake. Many of them have been held for years with no charges, "in a grave," as Aziz calls it.

In representing these prisoners, we have joined a growing volunteer force of outraged attorneys who come from small and large firms across America. The group includes death penalty and amnesty lawyers, plaintiff and defense lawyers, bankruptcy and corporate lawyers. It even includes advocates for retired generals and admirals, all working for free.
The Graham amendment is wrong, because habeas corpus is at the heart of what makes us a republic, and a free people. But don't take my word for it; ask Alexander Hamilton:

As Joseph Margulies, who was lead counsel in the Rasul case, has written, "Sometimes called the Great Writ, habeas has been part of our law for more than 200 years and is one of the only protections of individual liberty enshrined in the Constitution (as opposed to the protections subsequently added in the Bill of Rights)."

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton extolled the writ of habeas corpus, along with the prohibition of ex-post-facto laws, as among the "great securities to liberty and republicanism."
This is a right that must be preserved, not removed as a matter of "jurisdiction." This is not "tampering" with the Constitution; this is eviscerating it.

Let your representatives know what you think.

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