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Majority of US Senators Vote to Restore Habeas Corpus

On September 19, a majority of US senators voted to approve an amendment that would restore the right to habeas corpus, one of the oldest and most important checks on the arbitrary exercise of government power. Last year’s Military Commissions Act eliminated habeas corpus – which allows a prisoner to challenge the legality of his detention in a court of law – for non-citizens whom the president declares to be “enemy combatants.” Although the amendment fell four votes short of the 60 needed to survive a Republican-led filibuster, the vote sends a clear message that most senators reject the administration’s position that it can indefinitely detain non-citizens without charge. Through op-eds, media interviews, and public and private advocacy meetings, Human Rights Watch has pressed for the restoration of this fundamental human right. We met with dozens of legislators and their staff from across the political spectrum, and worked closely with Senator Patrick Leahy, the chief sponsor of the bill, to develop strategy and arguments for pushing the legislation forward. Going forward, we will continue to urge Congress to restore this most basic right.

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