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Restore the Fundamental Right of Habeas Corpus, Public Citizen Tells Congress

March 20, 2007

Restore the Fundamental Right of Habeas Corpus, Public Citizen Tells Congress

Organization Unveils National Campaign to Uphold Constitutional Right

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen began an initiative today to urge Congress to restore the basic right of habeas corpus that was stripped in legislation passed in the last Congress. The organization launched an online petition and joins allies in the “National Restore Habeas Corpus Call-In Week” to encourage concerned citizens to contact lawmakers to urge them to enact legislation that will restore our nation’s commitment to freedom and the rule of law.

The writ of habeas corpus requires the government to justify in court why a person is being held by the government and reflects the country’s most deeply held notions of liberty and fairness. Congress stripped away this right from non-citizens deemed “enemy combatants” when it passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) under pressure from the Bush administration last year.

“The right of habeas corpus is one of the most fundamental protections written into our constitution,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “We cannot trumpet our own principles of freedom and the rule of law when we deny them to others.”

The administration has consistently tried to stop the courts from reviewing the lawfulness of its actions, such as allowing mistreatment amounting to torture of detainees who have no right to challenge the legality of their imprisonment.

“Under the MCA, any non-citizens called enemy combatants can be thrown in jail and stripped of their liberty,” said Linda Andros, legislative counsel for Public Citizen. “This is yet another example of the Bush administration violating basic rights and American values, and it produces only a false sense of security for the nation.”

Public Citizen is supporting several bills in Congress to restore the right to habeas corpus: Specter-Leahy Senate Bill, S. 185, the “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007”; its companion in the House, the Nadler-Harman House Bill, H.R. 1416, the “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007”; and the Dodd-Leahy-Feingold-Menendez Bill, S. 576, “Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007,” in the Senate.

Public Citizen is urging citizens to express their outrage and help restore the right to habeas corpus by signing a petition on its Web site. Concerned citizens also can speak out by flooding the Capitol with calls from March 19-23 for “National Restore Habeas Corpus Call-In Week.” To read the petition and learn more, click here.