Senators Leahy and Specter Introduce Habeas Corpus Restoration Act

On December 5, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania introduced legislation (S. 4081) to restore the right to habeas corpus to those deemed to be enemy combatants and who are facing trial before military commissions, including those being detained at the U.S. Guantanamo prison in Cuba.  Habeas corpus provides an avenue for inmates in detention to challenge the constitutionality of their confinement.  The roots of this protection go back to early English law and the right to habeas corpus is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.  The Military Commissions Act of 2006, passed in September 2006, precluded enemy combatants from pursuing habeas corpus relief and barred cases decided by military commissions from habeas review.  Those to be tried before military commissions could face the death penalty.

"The Constitution of the United States is explicit that habeas corpus may be suspended only in time of rebellion or invasion," observed Sen. Specter. "We are suffering neither of those alternatives at the present time. We have not been invaded, and there has not been a rebellion."

"This bill would restore the great writ of habeas corpus, a cornerstone of American liberty for hundreds of years that Congress and the President rolled back in an unprecedented and unnecessary way with September's Military Commissions Act," said Senator Leahy.
(See Congressional Record: December 5, 2006 (Senate), Page S11197-S11199, introductory statements of Sens. Leahy and Specter to the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006).  See Military Commissions.