News Release

800th Anniversary of Magna Carta: What it Means Now

The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is on Monday, June 15. The Telegraph, gives a history in “What is the Magna Carta, and why is it important?” Its literal meaning is ”Great Charter” and it was agreed to by King John to appease his rebellious barons in 1215. The Magna Carta states: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned … except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay right or justice.” [Note: IPA has a new calendar that might be a useful tool for journalists: accuracy.org/calendar.]

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at ccrjustice.org, @justleft
Available for a limited number of interviews, Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, author of the book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, and co-counsel in European cases to hold former president George W. Bush and other officials accountable. See “The Ratner Report” on The Real News.

He said today: “Those tortured and who remain imprisoned at Guantanamo, the over 2 million imprisoned by the U.S., those murdered by drones, by police, and killed in unlawful wars, and countless others oppressed by the U.S. ask, as Frederick Douglass did about the meaning of July 4 during slavery, ‘What to us is this Magna Carta?’ What have become cornerstone freedoms derived from the Charter: due process, habeas corpus, no imprisonment without a fair trial, the prohibition on torture and no delay in the right of justice are given at best lip service while justice is denied.

“In Rasul v. Bush, the first of the Guantanamo cases CCR took to the Supreme Court in 2004, the court used strong language against executive detention and upheld the right of habeas corpus to test a prisoner’s detention. Yet today, over 100 remain there and the courts do nothing. So yes, celebrate the Magna Carta, but fight to make its liberties have meaning.

“One aspect always forgot in the U.S. is that while the Magna Carta concerned primarily political and judicial rights, the Charter of the Forest, proclaimed at roughly the same time, guaranteed economic rights — the right of people to the commons — the right to the forest, honey etc: the right to economic survival. We are at the beginning of a struggle about those rights now. Let us not forget those rights as most celebrate judicial rights — that badly need reinvigoration.

“Finally, the American Bar Association  put up a plinth at Runnymede with the words, ‘freedom under law.’ That is not what the Magna Carta is about. It was about putting authority under law and as we have less and less democracy we need to go back to that principle.” See Noam Chomsky’s piece “Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It,”

ROBIN KOERNER, robink at bluerepublican.org, @rkoerner
Koerner is a British American political commentator. He recently wrote the piece “800 years on, the Magna Carta for our time” and set up the website MagnaCarta.US as a celebration and a reassertion of the values of the Magna Carta.He said today: “The Magna Carta is widely regarded as the document that marked the beginning of the Anglo tradition of constitutional liberty that would eventually lead to the writing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

“The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantees that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,’ a phrase that was derived from Magna Carta. The Constitution includes a similar writ in the Suspension Clause, Article 1, Section 9: ‘The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.’ Each of these proclaim that no person may be imprisoned or detained without evidence that he or she committed a crime. The Ninth Amendment states that ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'” Koerner is publisher of WatchingAmerica.com and started Blue Republican.