Nadler-Harman Bills Would Restore Rule of Law and Due Process, ACLU Welcomes Measures, Urges Congress to Act Swiftly

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
March 8, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed two separate bills introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) that would restore Constitutional rights including due process for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007” and “Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007” would fix many of the problems contained in the Military Commissions Act passed by Congress last year.

“Congressman Nadler and Congresswoman Harman are true patriots for standing up for Constitutional rights and the rule of law,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We urge Congress to act quickly to restore due process and correct the mistake it made in passing the Military Commissions Act last year. The Nadler-Harman bills reaffirm America’s commitment to fairness and freedom.”

The “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007” mirrors a bill, S. 185, offered in the Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill would restore habeas corpus for those detained by the American government.

The “Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007” would also reinstate habeas rights and clarify the definition of “enemy combatants.” Additionally, it would block the federal government from making up its own rules on torture. The Geneva Conventions have governed American behavior during war for decades. The bill makes clear the federal government must comply with the Conventions, and no one in the federal government – not even the president — can make up their own rules on torture and abuse.

Like its counterpart in the Senate, S.576, sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), the act would also end the two different standards — one for privates and sergeants and another for top government officials. The Military Commissions Act left military personnel subject to comprehensive laws against torture and abuse, but gave top government officials a get-out-of-jail free card. The bill makes sure that all felony torture and abuse can be prosecuted, regardless of rank.

“There is already clear evidence that some of those held at Guantanamo Bay shouldn’t be there,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “These bills ensure that those being held by our government are afforded basic due process rights. The fact that innocent people are being held by our government, without charge, is an affront to our freedoms and values.”

The ACLU’s letter on S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, is available at:

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