Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Jonathan Hafetz on habeas corpus

Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law wrote in with a recommendation for the series on fiction about jails without judges:
I propose Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. This book, Solzhenitsyn's first, recounts one day in the life of a man unjustlfy imprisoned for treason during World War II. A simple peasant, Denisovich's "crime" was escaping from the Germans who had captured him and returning to his own side. Denisovich was sent to a Siberian labor camp as a spy. The book describes the camp's operation, including the cruelty, suffering, and deceit the prisoners must endure to survive. It also tells how other prisoners came to the camp, many for reasons similar to Denisovich. This book illustrates why habeas corpus, by safeguarding independent judicial review and due process, protects against the establishment of prisons beyond the law like those in Solzhenitsyn's book. The issue is not whether Guantanamo or other post-September 11 prisons are the same as a Soviet concentration camp. (Indeed, since when did "better than a Soviet gulag" become the test of this nation's commitment to human rights?). Rather, the point is that habeas corpus provides the greatest safeguard against unchecked exeuctive power and that the writ's core purpose is to prevent the establishment precisely the type of prisons to which Ivan Denisovich was unjustlfy confined.
Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. Click here to read the prize presentation speech, and here to read his Nobel lecture.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in 1962. Pravda (!) hailed it: "Solzhenitsyn's narrative is reminiscent at times of Tolstoy's artistic force. An unusually talented author has been added to our literature!.... Why is it that our heart contracts with pain as we read this remarkable story at the same time as we feel our spirits soar? The explanation lies in its profound humanity, in the quality of mankind even in the hour of degradation."
Jonathan Hafetz is Associate Counsel in the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Before joining the Brennan Center, Mr. Hafetz was a Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. where he litigated numerous cases challenging the unlawful detention of “enemy combatants” and restrictions on immigrants’ rights. He also previously worked as an attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and at the Partnership for the Homeless. Mr. Hafetz clerked for Judge Sandra L. Lynch of the U.S Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School and B.A. from Amherst College. Mr. Hafetz also holds a masters degree in history from Oxford University and served as a Fulbright scholar in Mexico. He is the author of numerous articles in academic journals and popular publications.

Click here to read his op-ed, "What the Detainee Treatment Act Really Means for Guantanamo Detainees" and here for his op-ed, "America also stands trial at Gitmo."

Thanks to Jonathan for the recommendation and the especially clear analysis of how the novel illustrates what is at stake in the debate over habeas corpus.

--Marshal Zeringue