Gray Panthers of San Francisco
May, 2006 Newsletter

Why Habeas Matters

The ancient right of habeas corpus guarantees that no one can be arrested by the state or seized in any fashion and held without being brought before a judge, charged with a crime and having evidence brought forward establishing probable cause for the person to have been arrested and held. This is the most basic of democratic rights and provides real protection from the bald assertion of power by the police or the state. It is the very heart of due process of law.

The writ of habeas corpus has been around for over 1,000 years and first emerges in writing in 1215 in the Magna Carta. Because of its age and its centrality, it is often called the “Great Writ.” It is enshrined in Article I of the United States Constitution and as such predated even the Bill of Rights. In well over 200 years there has never been a congressional stripping of the right of habeas, until now with the Detainee Treatment Act. Consequently, the Bush Administration has set a dangerous precedent and has once more usurped the rule of law. If the Guantanamo detainees can be denied their constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus, then who is to say that anyone else charged with a lesser crime will not be held indefinitely without the ability to face their accusers and to know the accusations made against them?

Center for Constitutional Rights (2006)


(back to May 2006 Newsletter front page)