The animal rights group has been granted a court hearing in which it will argue that the two chimpanzees cannot be held captive because they are autonomous, intelligent creatures.
If all goes well for a New York human rights group, two chimpanzees who have hitherto been held at the New York State University will be set free and declared 'legal persons'.
According to Reuters, the animal rights group has been granted a court hearing in which it will argue that the two chimpanzees cannot be held captive because they are autonomous, intelligent creatures.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe in Manhattan issued a writ of habeas corpus, requiring the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island to defend its right in court to keep the chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo.
A writ of habeas corpus requires a person to be released from unlawful imprisonment.
Describing the case as the first of its kind in the world, the Nonhuman Rights Project claims that because chimpanzees are autonomous, intelligent creatures, their captivity amounts to unlawful imprisonment under the law.
On this note, they want the pair of chimps, who are used in research on physical movement at the university, to be sent to a sanctuary in Florida.
Under the law, such orders can be granted only to "legal persons," so Judge Jaffe would need to find that chimpanzees have at least some limited rights traditionally reserved for humans.
The university will be represented by the New York state Attorney General's office in a hearing scheduled for the 6th of May.
In separate cases, the Steven Wise owned group, sued the owners of two chimpanzees who live in upstate New York. State judges however tossed out both lawsuits, and separate appeals courts upheld those rulings.
Wise, who is a lawyer, has asked the state's top court, the Court of Appeals, to hear the cases and said a victory could spur similar cases on behalf of elephants, dolphins, whales and other intelligent animals.