A court case this week could help determine whether two chimpanzees deserve the rights of "personhood," the Washington Examiner reported on Monday.
The two chimpanzees, named Tommy and Kiko, are to be represented by the Nonhuman Rights Project in the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case this Thursday.
The Nonhuman Rights Project asked in its petition that a chimpanzee not be considered a "legal thing to be possessed" but a "cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned."
The petition argues that "chimpanzees possess such complex cognitive abilities as autonomy, self-determination, self-consciousness, awareness of the past, anticipation of the future and the ability to make choices; display complex emotions such as empathy; and construct diverse cultures," emphasizing that this "is sufficient to establish common law personhood and the consequential fundamental right to bodily liberty. The accompanying affidavits and memorandum of law establish that extending legal personhood to Petitioner is strongly supported by law, science, and history."
Lawyer Steve Wise, who founded the Nonhuman Rights Project, told NBC News that "'Personhood' is not synonymous with 'humans ...' A 'person' is the law's way of saying that entity has the capacity for rights. A 'thing,' which chimpanzees are now, don't have capacity for any kind of rights."
While previous similar attempts failed, this time will be different in that there is now a world precedent for granting a chimpanzee rights, NBC reported. Last November an Argentinian judge ruled that a chimpanzee was a "nonhuman legal person" and that the ape had "inherent rights."
Two years earlier, the same judge ruled that an orangutan also deserved "personhood."
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