President Obama Says Guantánamo Closure Will Miss Deadline

November 18, 2009 5:14 pm

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Prison Should Be Closed As Soon As Possible While Upholding Rule Of Law, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – President Obama acknowledged today that the administration will miss its January deadline for closing the Guantánamo prison camp. The delay is due in part to the difficulty of finding countries that will accept those detainees who have been cleared for release, the Obama administration’s willingness to continue indefinitely detaining prisoners without charge or trial and attempts in Congress to obstruct the transfer of detainees to U.S. soil.

According to the Washington Post, of the remaining 215 Guantánamo detainees, approximately 90 have been cleared for release and administration officials have said they expect to prosecute about 40 in federal court or military commissions. These numbers leave unclear the administration’s plans for the rest of the detainees. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes both the use of military commissions and the indefinite detention without charge or trial of detainees suspected of terrorism crimes.

Also today in a congressional hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the administration’s plans to prosecute the 9/11 detainees in federal court while also reasserting the administration’s position that it has the authority to hold some detainees indefinitely without charge or trial.

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

“It is troubling that the administration will miss its January deadline for closing the Guantánamo prison, which has become a symbol of American lawlessness and human rights violations. Guantánamo will continue to be a stain on our reputation for as long as it remains open, and it should be closed as soon as possible.

“However, as important as it is to close Guantánamo soon is that it be closed right. With the closure of Guantánamo must also come the end of the policies that the prison stands for, including unlawful indefinite detention without charge or trial. After seven and a half years of indefinite detention without due process, any Guantánamo detainee the government lacks the evidence to prosecute in federal court should be repatriated or transferred to a country where he won’t be tortured.

“We’re encouraged that the Senate has finally shown some spine and twice this month defeated legislation that would have obstructed plans to try the detainees in federal criminal courts. Congress should continue to stand strong against fear-mongering attempts to thwart the administration’s plans to close Guantánamo. Our criminal justice system is more than capable of providing both fair trials and security, and is the only way to achieve the real and reliable justice that Americans deserve.

“Whether or not the administration meets its deadline for closure, it must not abandon its commitment to American values. President Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo was an important commitment that must be honored, but it will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue the shameful policies of Guantánamo on American soil, at Bagram or anywhere else.”

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“Attorney General Holder deserves to be commended for his strong defense today, under hostile questioning from Republican senators, of his decision to prosecute the 9/11 defendants in our federal court system where American values are upheld and fair trials can be provided.

“At the same time, we are concerned that Holder suggested the possibility that the administration could continue to detain Guantánamo terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge or trial. If the administration has evidence against these detainees, it should prosecute them in federal court. If not, it should repatriate them or relocate them to safe havens.”

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