Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Habeas Corpus explained

In Them’s fighting words, I tried to explain why calling Generalissimo Gonzales a fascist is justified. It has to do with his denial of the supremely obvious fact that the Constitution guarantees the right of Habeas Corpus to Americans.

Since that time, a half a million people protested against this administration in Washington, D.C. and many more in local demonstrations throughout our country. But the outrage did not ostensibly extend to the attack on basic civil rights by the Party of Bush.

I suppose the problem lies in the fact that the concept of Habeas Corpus is not widely understood, and therefore, the central role it has in the idea of ordered liberty is not appreciated. Along comes Larry Beinhart on Huffington Post. In an article entitled, What Habeas Corpus Means to You he explains what’s so great about the Great Writ. Here it is in a nutshell:
It is fundamental to - and a sort of shorthand for - the right to be in a legal system, with laws and judges, evidence and a defense.

Under Habeas Corpus, you have the right to say, I want to be brought into the court to determine if I am the right person charged, if there's an actual law prohibiting what I'm charged with, if the people who are holding me have the jurisdiction to do so, and I want that publicly known and I want the right to dispute all of that and the right to be tried too.

Without Habeas Corpus you can be swept up off the street and never heard from again. Period. Nobody has to know. Nobody - including yourself - has to know why. Nobody gets to determine if there is a law against what you're charged with. You have no rights at all.
Big Mitch is not the only one calling the Party of Bush fascists. Read Larry Beinhart’s article to see how he puts it succinctly:
Habeas Corpus means you are in a society of laws. Without it, you are in the land of Saddam Hussein, August Pinochet, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Ivan the Terrible ... and ...
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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