Habeas corpus

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Habeas corpus is a Latin loan phrase meaning, literally, “you shall have the body.” In modern usage, habeas corpus refers to the right of a detained individual to be brought before a court or judge to determine whether the imprisonment is legal and justified.

Habeas corpus is considered an indispensible right in many modern societies, but it’s sometimes suspended under extreme circumstances. For example, Abraham Lincoln famously suspended habeas corpus during the American Civil War so conspirators against the Union could be held indefinitely. Confederacy president Jefferson Davis did the same. In more recent history, leaders have suspended habeas corpus, both officially and unofficially and with various restrictions, during World War II, the Cold War, and the 21st-century War on Terrorism.


Nadeem had filed a habeas corpus petition in the court, alleging that the Badami Bagh police was illegally keeping his relative Sajid and his wife Tahira. [The Nation Pakistan]

In fact, the Constitution provides for suspension of habeas corpus, specifically when “public safety may require it.” [Sun-Sentinel]

Whereas righty libertarians stew over taxes and bailouts, lefty libertarians despise de facto suspensions of habeas corpus, surveillance, and restrictions on whom you can marry. [New York Magazine]

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