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Habeas Corpus – An Anachronism?

The BBC covers the US Supreme Court oral arguments in the efforts of detainees to get a court hearing: Guantanamo legal showdown begins

The US Supreme Court is deciding whether inmates at Guantanamo Bay camp should have the right to contest their detention in US civilian courts.

Two cases challenge the removal by Congress of the “habeas corpus” right of detainees under the US constitution to be heard by an independent judge.

If the court rules in their favour, indefinite detention under military control could be declared unlawful.

The court’s judges have ruled against the US government in two earlier cases.

The Beeb’s analysis includes some history:

However another, more ghostly, figure will also feature in the case.

This is Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, who was one of Charles II’s henchmen after the restoration of the monarchy in England in the 17th Century. Briefs for both sides in the Supreme Court hearing mention his activities.

Clarendon set up his own Guantanamo Bay, believed to have been in Jersey, in the hope that his prisoners could be kept away from the courts and in particular from the right of habeas corpus.

This is an ancient procedure in which a court can order someone holding a prisoner to bring him or her to court to justify the detention.

In the end, he failed and was himself impeached before fleeing abroad.

I liked the bit about “impeachment.” I’ve always felt the Hedgemony was more “Stuart” than “Hanover.”