ACLU Cheers DOD Amendment Restoring Habeas Corpus Due Process Rights

September 19, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union applauds today’s Senate vote of 56 to 43 on a procedural motion related to an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would restore habeas corpus rights. It is now clear that with a majority of senators voting for the amendment, habeas restoration is not only needed, but also desired by the Senate. To restore Habeas Corpus for those detained by the United States (S.AMDT. 2022), offered by Senators Specter (R-PA), Leahy (D-VT) and Dodd (D-CT), would restore the constitutional due process right of habeas corpus that was stripped away by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA).

“Today’s vote was a victory for those seeking to restore both the rule of law and our nation’s Constitution,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Military Commissions Act of 2006 stripped away one of our most fundamental rights – to challenge your imprisonment by the government. While the amendment ultimately was not filibuster proof, a majority of senators have made it clear that they want to restore the right of habeas corpus. The ACLU has worked diligently, leading a coalition of support for the restoration of habeas corpus. That tireless work is beginning to pay off and will be vindicated once habeas is signed back into law.”

The MCA stripped the constitutional right to habeas corpus from persons the president alone designates as enemy combatants. It allows our government to continue to hold hundreds of prisoners indefinitely at places like Guantanamo Bay, without ever charging them or giving them their day in court. The MCA was pushed through Congress just weeks ahead of the midterm elections in 2006.

Senators were voting to cut off debate to allow a vote on attaching the amendment to the fiscal 2008 defense measure, H.R. 1585, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, this procedural move by Republicans required 60 votes to attach an amendment, which means that habeas restoration did not make it into the defense measure at this point. However, this ploy cannot take away from the fact that a majority of senators feel habeas corpus and the rule of law should be returned to the American people.

“Senators Specter, Leahy and Dodd should be commended for their efforts to restore our Constitution. Almost a year ago, the Senate voted to strip habeas corpus protections from hundreds of people, but today a majority of senators voted for bringing back American values,” said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU. “Because of procedural hijinks by Bush’s allies, the habeas fix will not get in the bill at this time. But the majority vote gives a green light to future conferees that the Senate supports putting a habeas fix in legislation being sent to the president.”

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