Civil Liberties, Habeas Corpus, and the War on Terror
Habeas Corpus entitles any detainee held within the United States, on the grounds of accusations of a war crime, to have his or her day in court, just like any American citizen being accused of wrong doing. Many “POW’s” have not had their “great writ” of liberty as expressed by our U. S. constitution, but have been detained without having a fair hearing of their case. It is “unfair” to hold an individual captive, just because we feel we can, if our founding fathers expressed the need for Habeas Corpus, then as a country, we should respect and implement its purpose by giving those accused a right to a hearing.
The general meaning of the habeas corpus In the U. S. Constitution and its relationship to the protection of other civil liberties is one that is meant to give anyone accused of a crime against our country to have their day in court. The court proceedings are ultimately decide if he or she has been held with or without probably cause in connection with a crime against our country. According to the Constitution, the only time this writ should be relinquished is when there is a threat against public safety.
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If there appears to be no imminent threat to our national security, as required by our lands doctrine, then each and every individual should have their due process, no matter the current situation of our government. As stated in California Law Review “The failure of federal habeas to help correct problems in state criminal justice systems is particularly regrettable given evidence that states systematically violate criminal defendants’ rights. ” (Primus, 2010).
The historical evolution of habeas corpus, including its English and American traditions are dated back to when Abraham Lincoln was president during the civil war when a supporter of the confederacy was captured and accused of treason. He had asked to have his writ of Habeas Corpus and was revoked by President Abraham Lincoln. Basically, during times of war presidents can exercise their prerogative as it is considered foreign policy, and therefore, neither Congress nor the Supreme Court will get involved. During times of war if an enemy soldier was court he was tried inside military courts and his Writ to Habeas Corpus was revoked.
This would change years later when a civilian was convicted of assaulting two people toward the end of the war in 1944 when the Supreme Court made it clear that due process would be enacted since the war was ending. What this meant for the accused was he would have his Writ to Habeas Corpus. “Supreme Court proved eager to reassert the Constitution and Bill of Rights once the crisis was over. ” (Waldman, 2012). Examples from U. S. history of the “suspension” of habeas corpus and their applicability is during wartime, presidents assume imperial presidency.
As stated in the previous paragraph, this is defined as a president doing what he pleases, largely to protect the United States from any threats or possible threats, so prisoners are tried with Military Tribunal for their offenses. Cases when suspension of civil liberties were eliminated was during the Civil War when then President Abraham Lincoln Captured John Merryman, who was a Confederate Soldier accused of cutting telegraphy lines and blowing up railroad lines. At that time Washington D. C. was under constant threat so President Abraham Lincoln declared Martial Law.
During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt had Japanese Americans whom gave the impression of being loyal to Japan gathered and taken to detention camps. The only thing these men were guilty of was being Japanese; they posed no real threat to the United States. The Supreme Court stepped aside and the President due what he felt was necessary at that time, just according to the constitution or unjust, the other cheek was turned, so to speak. “the case case of Hirabayashi v. United States in 1943 demonstrated the Supreme Court’s willingness to defer to the president during war time. (Waldman, 2012).
The relevance of habeas corpus to the contemporary U. S. situation during the war on terror, especially with respect to persons characterized by the President as “enemy combatants” or “illegal combatants” are held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “According to the most recent unclassified reports, there are approximately 255 detainees still held behind multiple layers of concertina wire along the shores of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. ” (Jackson, 2010). Threats to the United States are captured and sent to Cuba where America rents space from Cuba to house the captured detainees.
The issue has been said to be divided and are calling for a reform. “Many believe that America needed to respond quickly and decisively in order to restore the faith of the international community. ” (Jackson, 2010). Since the absence of civil liberties has been known to be revoked during times of war, the relevance it has today, has not changed much at all. Recent presidents are now implementing an enemy combatant’s right to due process under the Obama administration. This is harder because, the habeas corpus pertains to soldiers of war; terrorists are not soldiers, but individuals acting on behalf of militant groups.
The U. S Supreme Court’s interpretation of the right of habeas corpus with respect to “enemy combatants” or “illegal combatants are usually to allow the President to handle any matters on foreign policy. The Supreme courts have been known to turn the other cheek and back the President’s position in request to a detainees Writ to habeas corpus. In the case of Boumediene v. Bush, shows no difference in the handling of this case then any others in history of waiting to give a detainee is entitled civil liberties. “ Nothing in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Boumediene v.
Bush appears to abandon this traditional distinction…” (Tyler, 2012). My evaluation of the various perspectives in this topic expressed by the justices and the leaders in other branches of government and popular media is that a change needs to be made according to what our founding fathers of the Constitution had originally created the writ of habeas corpus. However, it is my feelings that our President has been deemed Commander and Chief of the Armed forces and he should be able to dictate what is needed to carry out protection for our country.
If the Supreme Court and Congress find foreign policies are that of the President, then the decision through checks and balances should in my opinion be highly regarded. The situation would be different if Congress and the Supreme Court were not supportive of the presidential decision to wait until war has ended and or try the detainee in a Military Tribunal. The Constitution is to provide us with guidance and to ensure equality for our citizens, but those who pose a threat to our country and safety as in 9/11, should not be protected by our Constitution.
I support our Constitution and believe that if the law entitles a “potential threat” to a hearing on what he or she is being accused of then that individual, should have what is due to them. According to history, which always repeats itself, this will be a long road to overcome. America is made up of so many different nationalities of people; they love America because of the fairness our country ensures through our justice system. To ensure this faith is kept and restored if withered, we have to allow everyone, suspect or not their rights under our Constitution.
Our finding fathers derived the Constitution to prevent a lawless society by providing a fair check and balance system. All detainees are entitled to what is called the “great writ”, or properly known as habeas corpus and they should receive what they are entitled to because we are a free world and to prevent anyone whom may be innocent from spending long amounts of time in prison camps when they have done nothing wrong. The Habeas Corpus in my opinion is not so much to protect the guilty, but to protect the innocent.