Preserving judicial process
On Nov. 7, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from Salim Ahmed Hamdan regarding the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, challenging a series of decisions which are shaking the very foundations of our legal traditions.
Mr. Hamdan has been held for the past five years in Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant. During this time, he has been denied an opportunity to defend himself and refute the shadowy allegations which have never been formally brought against him.
Similarly on Nov. 9, the British Parliament struck down an attempt by the Tony Blair government to violate the Common Law tradition habeas corpus. Had the Blair government succeeded, British police would have been able to hold suspected terrorists without charges for up to 90 days.
Though the United Kingdom and the American Republic are two distinct nations, we are sister countries that share a legacy of separate powers and legal restraint. Our nations have historically been the banner carriers of liberal, democratic civilization, embodying the humanist principle of respect for the individual and strict reliance upon an empire of laws, not an empire of men.
We will only be able to safeguard our shared culture by respecting our institutions, not by plowing them asunder. The presumption of innocence is a foundational concept in our common legal tradition. The rule of law is not a case of situational ethics, to be relied upon when useful and cast aside when inconvenient. Down that path lies only oppression and eventual tyranny.
If we are to weather the storm of attacks against our free and open society, we cannot succeed by renouncing our legal traditions. We must rely upon our courage and keep faith with our bedrock principles. A justice system that ignores the principles of checks and balances and due process, detaining people without legal defense, threatens the sons and daughters of liberty everywhere.
Three cheers for the United States Supreme Court and the British Parliament!