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Habeas Reform Legislation Introduced

Posted on by Jesse Lee

From the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees:

SKELTON/CONYERS Introduce Habeas Reform Legislation

Washington, DC — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) introduced legislation today which would uphold the principle of habeas corpus by amending existing law to allow individuals detained, often for many years without formal charges, to have their day in court.

“Last year when Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, I argued that the bill was seriously flawed by provisions which unconstitutionally stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas cases,” Skelton said. “Today, Chairman Conyers and I have introduced legislation to undo this mistake, and I am pleased to be joined by so many other members in advancing this important change.”

“Habeas Corpus is one of the fundamental touchstones of our constitutional democracy,” Conyers said. “We cannot preach freedom abroad if we are not willing to give prisoners the ability to establish their innocence; and, we cannot advance the cause of fighting terrorism at home if our government takes constitutionally dubious short cuts.”

“The last thing that we want is to convict an individual for terrorism and then have that conviction overturned because of fatal flaws in the Military Commissions law passed in the previous Congress. Military judges have already dismissed charges against two suspected terrorists because of deficiencies in the legal framework hurriedly adopted last year. Amending the habeas provisions of the Military Commissions Act will significantly improve this law and help us stay true to our nation's values,” said Skelton.

The bill accomplishes two main goals. It upholds the principle of habeas corpus as applied to detainees, allowing them to challenge their indefinite detention without trial. Detainees who are being detained in active combat zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, will continue to not be allowed to file habeas petitions. The bill also permits habeas courts to review the actions of a Military Commission established under the Military Commissions Act.

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