Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lincoln suspends habeas corpus

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1861 President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in some areas of the USA. It was extended throughout the nation on September 24, 1862, against anyone suspected of being a Southern sympathiser. Thanks to the government's new-found ability to imprison without charge, over the next four years some 18,000 'subversives' and peace activists were jailed without charges. In the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis also suspended habeas corpus and imposed martial law.

In America it was the first, but not the last time the age-old guarantee of human rights had been whittled away by the State. (In 1215, Magna Carta had promised "No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land."

In the early 1870s, President Ulysses S Grant suspended habeas corpus in nine counties in South Carolina, as part of federal civil rights action against the Ku Klux Klan under the 1870 Force Act and the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. In 1942, the US Supreme Court ruled in Ex parte Quirin that unlawful combatant saboteurs could be denied habeas corpus and tried by military commission. In 1996, following the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed into law, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), in which Section 101 set a statute of limitations of one year following conviction for prisoners to seek the writ.

President George W Bush's November 13, 2001, Presidential Military Order gave the President of the United States the power to detain suspects, suspected of connection to terrorists or terrorism as an unlawful combatant. Critics complained that a person could be held indefinitely without charges being filed, without a court hearing, and without entitlement to a legal consultant, and that the officials implementing the commissions would be making up the rules as they went along. Many legal and constitutional scholars contended that these provisions were in direct opposition to habeas corpus and the United States Bill of Rights. On January 17, 2007, Bush's Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, asserted in Senate testimony that while habeas corpus is "one of our most cherished rights", the United States Constitution does not expressly guarantee habeas rights to United States residents or citizens ...

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