Judge Andrew P. Napolitano: Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and our Constitution

“No person … shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” 
— Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Abdulsalam al-Hela is a 53-year-old Yemeni cleric who has been incarcerated by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba since 2004. He has not been charged with any crime. His case has a long and complex legal history, but it is instructive to all who believe that the Constitution means what it says.

Hela is represented by competent counsel who have filed numerous petitions in his behalf asking the courts to compel the government to comply with the Constitution and justify his confinement. The underlying constitutional principles here are due process and habeas corpus. The obligations of complying with both are imposed upon the federal government by the Constitution.

Due process — which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment — means that every person confined or charged by the government is absolutely entitled to a notice of the charges against him, a fair hearing on those charges before a neutral judge and jury, and the right to appeal any adverse decision to other fair and neutral judges. Hela is also entitled to a writ of habeas corpus.

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