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WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration has submitted a plan to Congress to close the Guantánamo Bay detention site. In response, Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, issued the following statement:
“We welcome President Obama’s commitment to finally close Guantánamo and aspects of this plan, but the proposal to move some of the detainees to the U.S. mainland for continued detention without charge is reckless and ill-advised. It won’t appease members of Congress who appear bent on making Guantánamo a permanent offshore prison for individuals captured in a global, apparently endless war. And it won’t end indefinite detention – it will shift it to the U.S. mainland.
“The possibility of a new, parallel system of lifelong incarceration inside the United States without charge would set a dangerous precedent. If successfully mounted, it would be a devastating blow to basic principles of criminal justice.
“President Obama is right to buck congressional opposition to closing Guantánamo and renew his support for options including prosecutions in regular federal courts. We welcome his rejection of the fear, hate, and ignorance that fuels Guantánamo’s continued existence.”
Guantánamo must be closed by addressing the problem head-on, not moving it somewhere else. Amnesty International USA wrote to President Obama in October urging that any plan to close Guantánamo must end indefinite detention without charge or trial, abandon military commissions in favor of federal courts and ensure accountability and redress for human rights violations.
The military commissions simultaneously fail to respect human rights principles or achieve justice. To be sure, anyone responsible for the crimes against humanity committed on September 11, 2001 should be brought to justice in fair trials. Guantánamo and the military commissions have not – and cannot – provide that justice. Those who lost loved ones in the attacks deserve to see justice in their lifetime. However, not only do the military commission trials seem unlikely to begin—much less conclude—for years to come, when they do take place they will fail to meet international fair trial standards. Amnesty International calls for trials for human rights violations and crimes under international law to take place before civilian courts, not military courts, and opposes the trial of civilians by military courts.
Amnesty International USA’s October letter to the president is available here.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.