This weeks award winning episode of radio show and podcast ‘This American Life‘, addresses the issue of Habeas Corpus. Broadly speaking, Habeas Corpus is the right of a prisoner to apply to be brought before a court to have the legality of their detention adjudicated. ‘This American Life’ examines how it’s suspension for detainees of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and in secret extraterritorial prisons run by the CIA, has effected their treatment. The episode includes eye opening interviews with two former inmates of ‘Gitmo’.
In addition to providing a predictably terrifying list of interrogation techniques in use against detainees accused of ‘terrorist activities’, from electrocution, to sexual humiliation, water deprivation and physical violence; and documenting how bounties offered for Al-Qaeda members led to the imprisonment of innocent civilians; this episode also describes a fascinating chapter in the history of Habeas Corpus.
John Ronson, an author and documentarist in the vein of Louis Theroux, takes a look at the suspension of this Magna Carta granted right, during the British restoration, an act which led to the impeachment of the Earl responsible (Lord Clarendon); and 450 years later, to an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the US Supreme court, by All-Party Parliamentary Group of 175 members of the British parliament.
Compelling and disturbing listening.