An interfaith coalition, Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, spoke truth to power Thursday when it asked Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to support giving back the writ of Habeas Corpus to prisoners being held in President George W. Bush’s War on Terror.
“We stand before you to demand leadership from Congress to restore the right of habeas corpus and to reinstate our nation’s commitment to the full Geneva Conventions,” Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree (pictured) said in her opening remarks. “We believe that the passage last fall of the Military Commissions Act imperils the soul and the moral condition of our nation.”
The Military Commissions Act labeled the estimated 400 prisoners currently being held at Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants and as such they are unable to challenge their imprisonment through a writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus would force the United States government to tell the prisoners what charges they’re being held on.
Elizabeth Gilson, an attorney for two of the men being held in Guantanamo, said military statistics show that only 8 percent of the men in prison are actual terror suspects. The remainder, which includes her clients—two Chinese Muslims fleeing persecution in China—were turned in for the U.S. government’s $5,000 reward. Gilson said a majority of the estimated 400 prisoners are shepherds, drivers, and 90-year-old men.
“My clients are not the exception, they’re the rule,” she said.
U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd introduced legislation that would reinstate habeas rights and prohibit the federal government from making up its own rules on torture and abuse.
Dodd unable to attend Thursday’s event at the Hartford Seminary sent a representative who read a letter that said, “The Military Commissions Act of 2006 has severely weakened our nation’s standing throughout the world and place the system designed to prosecute enemy combatants under a cloud of legal uncertainty.” He said his legislation will remedy much of the damage done by the “ill-considered and dangerous Military Commissions Act.”
A handful of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation joined Dodd in his attempt overturn the legislation, but Rev. Allie Perry (pictured) pointed out there were at least two members that did not participate in Thursday’s event.
The first was Congressman Chris Shays, R-4. Perry said the group did not receive a formal response from Shay’s office even after numerous phone calls. She said the informal answer they received from one of the women who answered the phone was, “I don’t think this legislation sounds like something he would support.”
Perry said U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman’s office said he was “not yet ready to decide whether he will support it.”
Perry said she was “baffled by what Lieberman needs in order to decide.”
“Is he against the use of torture or not? Will he support a writ of Habeas Corpus or not?” Perry asked rhetorically.
“We must take back the rule of law because nothing less than the nation’s soul is at stake,” Perry said.
She said winning Lieberman’s support is essential because it’s the Senate Armed Services Committee that is scheduled to vote on this bill April 26.