Plans For Closing Guantánamo Must Restore Due Process, Says ACLU

August 2, 2009 12:00 am

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Reported Proposal Shows Troubling Signs

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NEW YORK – According to an Associated Press report today, the Obama administration is considering plans to open a “courtroom-within-a-prison” complex on U.S. soil to hold Guantánamo detainees when the prison camp in Cuba closes. The proposal reportedly includes holding some detainees indefinitely without charge or trial and trying others in military tribunals. President Obama has pledged to close Guantánamo by January 22, 2010.

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

“Closing Guantánamo will be an empty gesture if we just reopen it on shore under a different name. While it’s encouraging that the administration is attempting to meet the deadline for closing Guantánamo, any arrangement that allows indefinite detention without charge or trial will leave in place the problems that led President Obama to order the prison closed in the first place.

Prisoners suspected of terrorism-related crimes should be charged and tried in federal courts that adhere to the rule of law and due process. These courts have shown themselves capable of handling complex terrorism prosecutions while affording defendants the procedural protections that the Constitution requires. Given that the federal courts are fully capable of handling these prosecutions, a new system of indefinite detention without charge or trial would be not only unconstitutional but unnecessary as well.

Any system of indefinite detention without charge or trial would be inconsistent with American values and would only provoke the same legal challenges and international outcry that Guantánamo provoked. The current administration should learn from the experience of the previous one that there are no shortcuts to achieving real justice.”

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