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Time to Practice What We Preach

The only way for America to live up to its highest ideals is to close Guantánamo.
Nahal Zamani,
Human Rights Program
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July 10, 2009

As President Obama travels overseas, it is a good time to remember the United States’ potential to lead by example. Today, the ACLU ran an ad in the daily Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, asking President Obama to restore American values of justice.

The only way for America to live up to its highest ideals is to close Guantánamo, try detainees suspected of a crime in our federal court system, and resettle or repatriate those who are not charged and tried in places where they will not be persecuted, tortured or abused.

While several European countries have recently expressed interest in resettling more Guantánamo detainees, the United States has been unwilling to resettle the detainees here in the United States. Our stalling is not only hypocritical, but detrimental. Closing Guantánamo is first and foremost the responsibility of the United States, and we can’t make the necessary progress without taking the first steps ourselves.

The Obama administration must resettle inside the U.S. detainees that have been cleared of national security threats, such as the Uighurs, members of an ethnic Muslim minority from Northwestern China. Since May 2006, 17 Uighurs have been detained in Guantánamo, four of whom were recently resettled in Bermuda. Thirteen Uighurs remain at Guantánamo despite being cleared of being “enemy combatants.” Negotiations to resettle them in Palau are ongoing, but not final. If Palau ultimately refuses to take the Uighurs, the Obama administration and Congress must reconsider their position and resettle them here (or perhaps the Supreme Court will have to do it for them).

On July 3, President Obama told the Associated Press that the idea of indefinite detention “gives me huge pause.” But recent signs indicate the possibility of a policy of indefinite detention. As the ACLU has said time and time again, indefinite detention would dismantle the constitutional right to due process, protected by the Fifth Amendment. And it would be a human rights disaster.

We cannot have other countries cleaning up our mess. As we say in our ad, the world is watching. It is about time to practice what we preach.

Take Action: Tell President Obama to stop indefinite detention and close Guantánamo.

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