WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action to restore the crucial writ of habeas corpus. Today, the committee meets to mark up pending legislation, including S. 185 - a bill to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States. The habeas bill is expected to pass out of committee today and head to the Senate floor within the month.
The legislation to restore constitutional rights is in response to last year’s Military Commission Act, which stripped the constitutional right to habeas corpus from detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. The MCA was a huge setback to civil liberties and was rushed through Congress in the weeks before the 2006 elections. The habeas bill would begin to undo the wrongs of last year.
"The Judiciary Committee is acting today to restore one of the most fundamental rights in America, the great writ of habeas corpus," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. "It is clear that the kangaroo court at Guantanamo Bay is not constitutional, as was made clear by the dismissal of charges against a Canadian citizen by a military judge on Monday. The process needs to be scrapped and Congress needs to treat the detainees in the war on terror in a just manner that begins with restoring habeas corpus."
News was made on Monday, when a United States military judge dismissed all charges against Omar Khadr of Canada, who was only 15 years old when detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay. In a separate case on Monday, a different military judge dismissed all charges against Salim Hamdan, the same detainee whose appeal of the initial military commission procedures last year resulted in the Supreme Court invalidating the Bush administration’s initial set of trial procedures.
"Guantanamo has been one illegal trial scheme after another. But after all of the chest thumping by President Bush and Congress, there is no escaping the fact that not one person has been tried and convicted," said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "The latest rulings mean that none of the detainees will ever be tried under the Military Commissions Act because of sloppy drafting. After more than five years of people wasting away without being charged and tried, it’s time to convict the guilty and send the innocent to countries that don’t torture. The habeas bill is a good first step."
ACLU activists from across the country are gathering in Washington, DC on June 26 to demand the restoration of our constitutional rights.
For more information visit www.juneaction.org.