Letter: Supporting Senator Bingaman's Efforts to Preserve Habeus Corpus

November 14, 2005

The Honorable Jeff Bingaman
The United States Senate
703 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Bingaman:

We write on behalf of The Episcopal Church in support of Senator Bingaman’s upcoming efforts to address the shortcomings in Senator Graham’s amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act (S.1042).

At its June 2004 meeting, the governing board of The Episcopal Church, passed a resolution calling “upon the United States government to grant legal rights to all detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba in accordance with international law and the Geneva Conventions;” and further resolved “that Council shares the deep concerns of many Americans and others over the spiral of violence in Iraq, the abhorrent torture and abuse of prisoners such as at Abu Ghraib, and urges the U.S. government to conduct itself in all aspects of the conflict with the highest standards of human rights and regard for due process which are cherished values of our nation and when disregarded diminish credibility of the U.S. in the world.”

We fully recognize the threat of terrorism both at home and abroad. We are deeply saddened by the acts of terror that have taken so many lives. We are also, however, deeply concerned when the U.S. Government takes steps that undermine the human and democratic values that have been the strength of our nation. We believe that Senator Graham’s amendment banning Guantanamo Bay prisoners from challenging their incarceration by petitioning in civilian court for a writ of habeas corpus would be just such a step.

While Senator Graham’s amendment is historic in scope, little time was taken to understand its legal and symbolic ramifications. Instead of acting to uphold “the highest standards of human rights and regard for due process,” that our resolution supported, this amendment does just the opposite. If the Graham amendment is enacted into law, the United States will be seen as backing away from our traditional support for human rights and the rule of law, values fundamental to our democracy. We ask that you support Senator Bingaman as he seeks to make the changes necessary to uphold our democratic values.


Maureen Shea