Five Years After the First Guantánamo Flight, Civil and Human Rights Continue to Erode
MIAMI, FL - On the fifth anniversary of the first known flight of prisoners to the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Amnesty International are calling for restoration of habeas and due process rights as well as closure of the Guantánamo prison. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 gutted habeas - our law against unlawful imprisonment - from our Constitution, thus removing the limitations on arbitrary executive power over any person's individual freedoms.
"This government continues to operate under the pretense that they are above the law," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. "The Military Commissions Act is a chilling rubber stamp on previous violations of law. This administration is ineptly sending a message to the rest of the world that they are free to do the same to our men and women in uniform - the very people sworn to protect our freedoms are being put in harm's way. The rule of law must be restored in America, starting at the top."
In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled against the President in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld declaring the military commissions illegal according to the Geneva Conventions. The decision by the government to ignore Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, then bypass the court's decision by providing themselves with a "get out of jail free" card (by way of the Military Commissions Act - "Act") is an unlawful scheme that should not be tolerated by the American public. The President has assumed the power to make judgment calls on what does and does not breach the Geneva Conventions, an abuse of power with little or no oversight from Congress or the courts.
"It is the responsibility of the U.S. Congress to act as a check on the power of the Executive Branch," said Brandon Hensler, an ACLU of Florida spokesperson. "Our elected representatives were asleep at the wheel when this Act was passed and it is now the duty of the 110th Congress to restore the rule law in our nation.
"Americans want a government that represents their values: freedom, fairness and the rule of law," Hensler continued. "This administration has violated these values time and again."
The groups said those suspected of being enemy combatants should be charged and prosecuted; but our government has no business detaining anyone without cause, whether in the U.S. or abroad. The inhumane treatment of prisoners that is allowed by the Act coupled with use of admissions obtained through measures that amount to torture cannot be allowed.
"The world's only superpower needs to lead on human rights and not provide excuses for other nations to violate them," said Jessica Carvalho Morris of Amnesty International's Miami Chapter. "The time is long overdue for the United States to turn its back on torture and unlawful detentions and respect international law."
The responsibility now lies with the recently convened 110th Congress to restore the rule of law and demand that our President follow the same laws that apply to all Americans.
Learn more about the government's abuse of power at: www.aclufl.org and www.aclu.org/safeandfree.