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We Trust the Courts. Obama Should Too.

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November 17, 2008

Last night, President-elect Barack Obama addressed the nation for the first time since he was elected almost two weeks ago.

close gitmo

During his interview with 60 Minutes, he vowed to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, stating:

I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantánamo, and I will follow through on that. I’ve said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture. And I’m going make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.

As you may know, the ACLU is calling on Obama to close Guantánamo on Day One of his presidency. There have been reports that his advisors are crafting a new system of preventative detention and National Security Courts — a position that deeply concerns us at the ACLU. There is no reason that Guantánamo detainees cannot be prosecuted in traditional U.S. criminal courts or military courts governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Over the past seven years, we have seen the utter failures of President Bush’s attempt to create a new legal system to try detainees — one that undermines the Constitution, international law, and core American values by eliminating due process, permitting evidence coerced through torture and granting the president absolute power to determine who is an enemy of our country.

It’s important to keep in mind that by the numbers, of the approximately 775 people who have been detained at Guantánamo since January 11, 2002, 520 have been released without ever being charged of any wrong-doing, and approximately 225 remain.

In the words of the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero:

If the Bush administration violated prisoners’ rights by torturing them in order to get a confession, no new law or legal system will fix that taint…A new legal system designed to get around that unfortunate legacy is destined for years of legal challenges by advocates who rightly believe that, under our system of justice, no one’s rights are safe unless everyone’s rights are protected.

Join us to let President-elect Obama know Americans support closing Guantánamo Bay prison, shutting down military commissions, and banning torture: we want the America that we believe in.