Monday, November 14, 2005

Habeas Corpus

The United States Senate is currently considering repealing the right to habeas corpus for detainees at Gitmo. It is hard to conceive of a more shameful, more disgusting spectacle. Habeas Corpus is among the most essential rights that a free people must respect to remain free. The right requires that the state can be compelled to give reason why a person is being detained. The importance of this right can hardly be better described than by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Paper number 84
The creation of crimes after the commission of the fact, or, in other words, the subjecting of men to punishment for things which, when they were done, were breaches of no law, and the practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious Blackstone,[1] in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital: "To bereave a man of life, [says he] or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government." And as a remedy for this fatal evil he is everywhere peculiarly emphatical in his encomiums on the habeas corpus act, which in one place he calls "the BULWARK of the British Constitution."[2]

To repeal this right is to adopt tyranny and, what I think is as important, is to embrace cowardice. For the only reason for taking this step is to quell our fears for what might happen. Once a population abandons courage, there is little hope for its liberty.

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