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Judge: Chimps Being Held for Research are ‘Legal Persons’ (Updated)

posted: 04/21/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Chimpanzees in a tree
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A judge has granted chimpanzees held in research institutions a key legal protection only ever afforded to humans.

New York Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe granted an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees currently being held for biomedical research at Stony Brook University.

In New York, a writ of habeas corpus can only be issued on behalf of a 'legal person', according to The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a petitioner in the case. Thus, in issuing the writ, the court implies that each chimpanzee is a 'legal person'.

The writ of habeas corpus requires Stony Brook University to legally justify detaining the chimps. If the court finds the explanation insufficient, the university will be legally required to release the chimps. NhRP has requested that the chimps be released into the custody of Save the Chimps, a nonprofit sanctuary in Florida.

Opponents of the ruling question how legal personhood will impact conservation organizations' ability to detain chimpanzees. Legal personhood would grant chimpanzees legal rights regardless of the conditions under which they are being held.

Update (April 22, 2015): The judge in the case has revised her court order and removed the writ of habeas corpus. The case, however, is still pending.

Click here to read the full press release from The Nonhuman Rights Project & click here to read the judge's order

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