Should “Enemy Combatants” Get Habeas Corpus Rights?


Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told senators recently that the Constitution does not grant individuals the right to habeas corpus. The Los Angeles Times says that the Constitution appears to contradict him on that doctrine, which says those taken into custody have the right to plead their innocence before a judge. “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended,” it says, “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Gonzales was making a claim that backs the Bush administration view that “enemy combatants,” including the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, are not entitled to fight the government in court.

Many senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), believe the right to habeas corpus should apply broadly and include foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. The Senate voted against that view, 51 to 48. On Thursday lawyers for Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, an Arab immigrant arrested in Peoria, Il., in 2001 and sent to a military brig as an “enemy combatant,” are going before a U.S. appeals court in Virginia seeking his release.


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