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Habeas Restoration to be Tested in Committee

June 6, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Spurred by Monday’s court ruling to dismiss charges against against two Guantanamo detainees, congressional Democrats are moving forward with legislation to restore Habeas Corpus.

>A day after two military judges ruled against the Bush administration’s system for trying terrorism detainees, Democrats seized on the rulings on Tuesday as evidence that Congress should restore the right of those held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their detentions.
>Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the majority leader, said he would be willing to bring such legislation to the floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to approve such a plan on Thursday.

The writ of Habeas Corpus has its origins in the Magna Carta of 1215 and it is the only civil liberty that was considered essential enough to have been included in the Constitution itself. It is the basic right that allows detainees to have their case considered by a court in order to determine the lawfulness of their detention. In September of 2006, this right was suspended for anyone accused of being an “unlawful enemy combatant” when Congress approved the Military Commissions Act.

The Restore Habeas Corpus Act of 2007 will be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. This vote will determine whether the bill will be considered by the full Senate or be tabled before even getting that far. Senator Patrick Leahy (D, VT), a co-sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the committee considering it, has called on supporters of restoring habeas corpus to those accused of being unlawful enemy combatants to email their home-state senators and urge them to support the bill. If your senator is a member of the Judiciary Committee, they will have extra influence in determining the future of this bill. Call them and let them know where you stand on the matter. firedoglake has a list of committee members and toll-free numbers for the capitol switchboard.

To learn more about this bill and the issues surrounding it, check out the blog coverage that has been rolling in on its OpenCongress page.

Pictured above are the bill’s two primary sponsors, senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter (R, A).

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