No Special Court System Necessary For Guantánamo Detainees, Says ACLU

November 10, 2008 12:00 am

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Group Responds To News Reports About Obama Team Plans

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NEW YORK – News reports today indicated that President-elect Barack Obama’s team was preparing a plan to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay and possibly create an alternative court system to try some of the detainees. Obama’s transition team later clarified that no decisions have yet been made about detainee prosecutions.

While the ACLU strongly supports the closure of Guantánamo and believes it should be done on Day One of Obama’s presidency by executive order, 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.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

“Any effort by President-elect Obama’s transition team and their advisors to develop new procedures to try the Guantánamo detainees is a distraction and a doomed effort. We have the best systems of justice in the world – either through the Uniform Code of Military Justice or through our criminal court system. President Bush made the terrible mistake of believing he could make up a new system of justice for terrorism cases and that experiment failed miserably. Any attempt to secure convictions by diluting basic due process safeguards will have lasting implications that are unlikely to be confined to Guantánamo. 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. If the only evidence against a Guantánamo detainee was obtained through torture, then there is no reliable evidence that can be used in an American court. 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.”

More information about the ACLU’s call for Obama to shut down Guantánamo and the military commissions is available online at:

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