Habeas Corpus et al:

We are hearing a lot about the  proposed revised Anti-terrorist Law in Canada and similar laws in the United States. In particular the continuation of the denial  of the right to a fair trial  to prisoners in Quantanimo Bay Prison in Cuba, and the suspension of the Fourth Amendment right to privacy in the Edward Snowdon snooping controversy .

As with so many facets of the interaction of  democratic  government with its citizens, there is a lot of smoke and fire  and little common sense in the continuing dialogue. I suggest the reason for this is two-fold. First because there is a basic misunderstanding of our basic rights under British Law, or, in the case of the United States, the Constitution, and second because we are not being provided with the information to determine if the suspension of these rights is justified.

Habeas Corpus, one of the most basic rights at English Common Law, was incorporated  during the reign of Henry 2nd  ( not by the Magna Carta as commonly supposed) by means of the following language ” “The King is at all times entitled to have an account why the liberty of any of his subjects is restrained whenever that restraint is inflicted” 

It is technically only a procedural remedy. It is a guarantee against any detention that is forbidden by law, but it does not protect other rights such as the entitlement to a fair trial. So if an in-position such as internment without trial is permitted by law then habeas corpus may not be a useful remedy.

Law can, and frequently does, over-ride Habeas Corpus and make a mockery out of  certain other inalienable rights  As in times of war. The problem is that the meaning of War has changed. Used to be War meant a whole nation. Now apparently it applies to individuals or small groups of individuals, or even products such as drugs.

Democracy is dependent on enlightened debate upon the merits of the facts as they are, NOT  on some of the facts, as they appear.

Debate is being  stifled by redaction of the facts due to National Security concerns.  So we are left wondering if draconian measures are truly warranted. Put another way we are told that only the government is capable of determining if the facts justify the means.

The argument that redaction  protects sources is most times nonsense.’Humint’ (human intelligence)  as its is called, is rare in cases of terrorism.  Information, for the most part, is gathered electronically, and thanks to Edward Snowdon, we all how that is done.

So why not a debate based on the facts? I suggest the reason is diabolically simple. It is far easier to govern by fear  than by reason.

3 thoughts on “Habeas Corpus et al:”

  1. Are not the media, in all its modern forms, negligent in their responsibility to inform the public? The media barons are too focused on the bottom line to want to spend more effort, time or paper, to explain details of any proposed legislation. Instead they are focused on presenting their own bias as briefly as possible with little or no room for intelligent, informed debate.

    1. You are part right but a media blackout is just that can be hard to get around
      I am told it is a little of the carrot and the stick
      If you keep this quiet I will give you the next scoop
      Anyway thank you for your comment

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