The 1679 Habeas Corpus Act -- 31 Car. 2, ch. 2, in the news in the United States
Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts
WASHINGTON Foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba have constitutional rights to challenge their detention there in United States courts, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, on Thursday in a historic decision on the balance between personal liberties and national security.
The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court.
"We hold that those procedures are not an adequate and effective substitute for habeas corpus. ...(p. 10).
"We begin with a brief account of the history and origins of the writ. (p. 16)
"Even when the importance of the writ was well understood in England, habeas relief often was denied by the courts or suspended by Parliament. Denial or suspension occurred in times of political unrest, to the anguish of the imprisoned and the outrage of those in sympathy with them. ....
"Civil strife and the Interregnum soon followed, and not until 1679 did Parliament try once more to secure the writ, this time through the (p. 19) Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, 31 Car. 2, ch. 2, id., at 935. The Act, which later would be described by Blackstone as the stable bulwark of our liberties, 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *137..., established procedures for issuing the writ; and it was the model upon which the habeas statutes of the 13 American Colonies were based...."
"The ruling came in the latest battle between the executive branch, Congress and the courts over how to cope with dangers to the country in the post-9/11 world. Although there have been enough rulings addressing that issue to confuse all but the most diligent scholars, this latest decision, in Boumediene v. Bush, No. 06-1195, may be studied for years to come.
"In a harsh rebuke of the Bush administration, the justices rejected the administrations argument that the individual protections provided by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 were more than adequate."
"Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said: 'When Congress passed the Military Commissions Act in 2006, Senator Kennedy called the act "fatally flawed" and said "its evisceration of the writ of habeas corpus for all noncitizens is almost surely unconstitutional." Today, the Supreme Court agreed, and rejected the Bush administrations blatant attempt to create a legal black hole beyond the reach of the rule of law.'"