ACLU Welcomes Guantanamo Closure Bill

May 23, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The ACLU today welcomed Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) introduction of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007, a bill that would close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The bill cuts off funds for everything except sending charged or sentenced detainees to Fort Leavenworth and transferring the remaining detainees to their home countries or other countries that will not torture or abuse them. The bill would effectively end the practice of indefinite detention without charge or due process for detainees who have been held for as long as five years without charge and without knowing the reason for their detention. It will also provide an incentive for the government to finally charge those detainees the government believes are guilty of crimes against the United States.

The bill requires the president to close the facility within 120 days of enactment. Within that time, detainees will be sent either to the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, or transferred to another country that will not torture or abuse them. The Secretary of Defense can obtain an additional renewal period of 120 days to hold the detainee if the government is preparing charges and has a logistical need for the additional time.

“This administration has turned the Guantanamo Bay prison into a dungeon, and thrown away the key” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Locking people up, without ever bringing charges, is not consistent with American values and must stop. Senator Harkin’s bill ensures that criminals or terrorists will be prosecuted but allows other detainees to go home.”

Fort Leavenworth is the military’s prison specifically designated, designed, and built by the Defense Department to hold national security prisoners. The decision to use Ft. Leavenworth closely tracks a recent statement by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who said, if elected president, “I would immediately close Guantanamo Bay, move all the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth and truly expedite the judicial proceedings in their cases.”

“Senator Harkin’s bill sets a hard deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and restoring America’s values,” said Chris Anders, legislative counsel to the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “It is tough legislation–it requires the government to finally get its act together and start charging and trying anyone alleged to be guilty, and send everyone else back to their home countries or other places that won’t torture or abuse them. The Guantanamo Bay prison violates core American values. It’s time to shut it down and return to the rule of law.”

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