Habeas Corpus Origins

Habeas Corpus, meaning 'you may have the body', is a legal action derived from the English common law. The first use of habeas corpus was during the rule of King Edward I. The basis of such a writ was explained by the fact the King had the right to know if the liberty of any of his subjects was restrained by law enforcement parties.

The first written account of a habeas corpus procedure was codified in the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. The procedure’s principles haven’t changed much since then. The habeas corpus can be issued by a court in the name of the ruler or in the name of the state in modern times. The habeas corpus law will bring the prisoner in front of the law system and his case will be legally analyzed. The petition can only be claimed by the prisoner himself or even by a third party on his behalf.

Habeas corpus has been mostly used since the 18th century in cases of incorrect or unlawful arrest or detention. The most famous case is the Somersett’s Case from 1771. In this case, a black slave named Somersett was set free after unlawful punishment and imprisonment.

Since its birth, the habeas corpus right has been restricted several times in England, as well as in the US. Habeas corpus is threatened by the decision taken during the two World Wars to imprison individuals without free trial. Another danger is the fact that, in England, as long as the detention of a prisoner is in accordance with an Act of the Parliament, the habeas corpus is irrelevant. The Human Rights Act of 1998 has given courts the opportunity to declare Act of the Parliament as incompatible with the Humans Rights Act in order to save the right to habeas corpus. But, as long as the Human Rights Act is not accepted by the government, the initiative has no effect.