President Obama Orders Guantánamo Closed And End To Torture

January 22, 2009 12:00 am

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Obama Also Orders Review Of Indefinite Detention Of ACLU Client Ali Al-Marri

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NEW YORK – President Obama issued executive orders today putting an end to some of the worst Bush administration policies of the last eight years dealing with detention of terrorism suspects. Obama ordered the closure of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay within a year and the halting of its military commissions; the end of the use of torture; the shuttering of secret prisons around the world; and a review of the detention of the only U.S. resident being held indefinitely as a so-called “enemy combatant” on American soil. The detainee, Ali al-Marri, is the American Civil Liberties Union’s client in a case pending before the Supreme Court.

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

“These executive orders represent a giant step forward. Putting an end to Guantanamo, torture and secret prisons is a civil liberties trifecta, and President Obama should be highly commended for this bold and decisive action so early in his administration on an issue so critical to restoring an America we can be proud of again.

“There are, however, ambiguities in the orders regarding treatment of certain detainees that could either be the result of the swiftness with which these orders were issued or ambivalence within the Obama administration. We are hopeful that as the process unfolds and gets clarified, there will be no doubt that detainees must either be charged, prosecuted and convicted or they need to be released. That’s the American way; our legal system, while not always perfect, is the best in the world. Adherence to American legal principles requires unconditional action; there is no room for a middle-ground. It would be an enormous mistake for the Obama administration to allow for indefinite detention in any case, or to endeavor to create any system other than our centuries-old justice system for prosecuting detainees. If President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates hold on to any part of the Bush administration’s legal farce, they will soon end up in the very same legal morass that the prior president found himself in over the last eight years.”

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“By shutting Guantanamo, ending torture, and closing the CIA secret prisons abroad, President Obama has given America a much-needed and significant break from the Bush administration policies that, with utter disregard for our Constitution, trampled our nation’s values and ideals. Today’s executive orders are significant steps towards restoring the rule of law in America, but we need to continue to take the necessary action to accomplish the goals set out in today’s executive orders. We hope to see Congress follow President Obama’s lead in renewing America’s moral leadership in the world. The ACLU will continue to work tirelessly in the name of freedom and justice for all.”

Also today, President Obama issued an executive order calling for a review of the detention status of detainee Ali al-Marri, the only U.S. resident indefinitely detained on U.S. soil as a so-called “enemy combatant.” The ACLU represents al-Marri in his current Supreme Court challenge.

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and lead counsel to al-Marri:

“We welcome review of Mr. al-Marri’s status because any objective review must conclude that his current detention as an ‘enemy combatant’ is undoubtedly unlawful. At the government’s request, we had already agreed to a 30-day extension for the government to file its brief in the Supreme Court, but we will vigorously oppose any request that delays resolution of the case beyond the current Supreme Court term ending in June. Mr. al-Marri has been illegally detained for 5 1/2 years in solitary confinement. We fully expect his detention to be struck down upon review by the Supreme Court.”

The orders issued today contain many of the recommendations of the ACLU in both its Actions For Restoring America document and its communications with the Obama transition team.

More information about the ACLU’s work to close Guantánamo can be found online at:

A copy of the ACLU’s Actions For Restoring America can be found online at:

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