Obama Administration Misses Deadline To Close Guantánamo

January 22, 2010 12:04 pm

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ACLU Urges Closure Of Prison And End To Indefinite Detention

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NEW YORK – The Obama administration missed the deadline today to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. On his second full day in office, President Obama signed an executive order to close the prison within a year. Today, the date that the prison was to have been closed, the facility remains open.

According to news reports today, the administration has decided to continue to detain without trial nearly 50 of the 198 Guantánamo prisoners because a presidential task force concluded that "they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release." The American Civil Liberties Union disputes that any significant category of such detainees exists, and renews its call for the closure of the prison and an end to the illegal policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial.

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

"An important deadline was missed today. One of the most shameful chapters of American history was to have been brought to a close with the shuttering of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Sadly, the prison remains open. While the administration has encountered both external and self-imposed obstacles to closing the facility, it is critical that it not give in to a sense of inertia and that the prison be shut down as soon as possible.

"But just as important as closing the prison quickly is closing it right, and that means putting an end to the illegal policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial. While the administration should transfer prisoners to the U.S. for federal court trials, it should not create a 'Gitmo North' by bringing them to facilities in the U.S. or anywhere else to be illegally held without due process. This practice was wrong in Cuba and would remain so here, reducing the closure of Guantánamo to a symbolic gesture.

"If the U.S. is to truly move forward and regain its moral footing, the administration must ensure that the shameful policies of the past are never repeated, on U.S. soil or elsewhere. It would be an error of historic proportions to miss this crucial window of opportunity for turning the page on the tragic policies of the past."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"The Obama administration continues to insist that there is a substantial number of Guantánamo prisoners who are simultaneously too dangerous to release and too difficult to prosecute, but if there is credible evidence that these prisoners are dangerous, there is no reason why that evidence could not be introduced against them in criminal trials. The criminal laws, and the material support laws in particular, are broad enough to reach anyone who presents a serious threat, and the federal courts are fully capable of affording defendants fair trials while protecting the government's legitimate interest in protecting information that is properly classified.

"It's worth asking what the Obama administration really means when it proposes that prisoners are 'too difficult to prosecute.' In at least some of these cases, the concern seems to be that the government's evidence has been 'tainted' by interrogators' use of methods that constitute cruel treatment or torture under domestic and international law. But that kind of 'evidence' is not evidence at all. Our justice system excludes coerced evidence not only because coercion and torture are illegal, but because coerced evidence is unreliable. If evidence is too unreliable to justify detention after criminal trial, it is certainly too unreliable to justify indefinite detention without trial."

The ACLU unveiled a new Web site today focusing on indefinite detention, and the need to either charge or release detainees that are not properly held under the laws of war. The Web site includes news and documents related to indefinite detention, as well as videos featuring former Guantánamo detainees speaking about their experience.

The ACLU's new online resource on indefinite detention can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/indefinitedetention

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