Civil Liberties, Habeas Corpus, and the War on Terror


Habeas corpus is considered to be one of the most important aspects of the Common Law. It refers to the right of a public prosecutor to challenge a person’s detention. The state is also not capable to force an individual to appear in the court. The law originated in England during times of conflict between Catholics and Protestants, producing many political prisoners.

In the United States, habeas corpus became a legal act after the country established its independence. It was considered so vital that it was mentioned in Article One of the Constitution of the United States. Congress has the power of investigation, but the courts traditionally make use of habeas corpus. This was the law that ensured civil liberties. Only in the 1960s did civil liberties expanded significantly, thanks to Miranda v. Arizona and Gideon Wainwright. This concept holds true even today, as individuals should always know the crime which they are charged for.

The habeas corpus act is not a part of the Bill of Rights, and there are three cases in which the President can annul it. All of them are related to situations when the nation faces its greatest challenges. For instance, it is known that Abraham Lincoln detained people known for being Confederate spies without proving their guilt. Today, a similar approach is applied to terrorists, as they are detained at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely. The terrorists are treated as ‘unlawful enemy combatants’, and are outside the scope of habeas corpus. Their guilt is presumed, which is truly unprecedented in U.S. history. However, it is evident that the global War on Terror today is more complicated than any other conflict. Many politicians insist that Guantanamo Bay should be closed, but the president supports the position that ‘enemy combatants’ in detention can stay there indefinitely. This, however, violates basic civil liberties.

The victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011 accept the president’s policy. The trauma is still impactful, and no one wants to experience something like that again. Be that as it may, the War on Terror will not end if the prisoners are seen as individuals outside of U.S. policy. Everyone should have equal access to civil liberties; double standards only lead to more violence. This is a question of respect, as human being must be treated equally. Granting equal liberties also shows good will in changing this situation.

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