11 January 2010

Gitmo isn't closing, it's just moving to Illinois

January 11, 2010, marks the eighth anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It's an anniversary that no American should be proud of. Still, far too little is being done about it.

One of Barack Obama's earliest presidential actions was to order the closure of Gitmo by January 2010. Now, a year later, it's clear that this deadline will not be met. And, even though Obama is working on transferring many of the Gitmo prisoners to the maximum-security Thomas Correctional Center in Illinois, some of the human rights issues regarding U.S. detention of terror suspects remain unaddressed.

Gitmo, you see, is not closing. It's merely moving to Illinois. Many of the detainees will still remain in legal limbo.

Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, explains:
"If President Obama is simply moving detainees from one Guantanamo to another, he has done nothing to honor his pledge to close the prison camp. The vast majority of detainees remaining at Guantanamo will never be charged with anything. Yet the president has made clear that he believes he can continue to hold these men, most of whom have already been in Guantanamo for eight years and should never have been detained in the first place, for as long as he wants without any trial whatsoever.

"Moving the Guantanamo system onshore is not change. Whether in Thomson, IL, at Guantanamo, or elsewhere, the very idea that we would toss aside our founding constitutional principles and allow any executive the power of kings to imprison someone forever without a trial is anathema to democracy.

"The Obama administration has already cleared for release at least 116 of the 210 men who remain at Guantanamo. Many of them have nowhere to go because they are from countries that routinely engage in torture and other human rights abuses. Will they now be subject to inhuman conditions of solitary confinement in a maximum security facility despite the fact that they will never be charged with anything and have been approved for release? For them Thomson, Illinois, may be worse than Guantanamo.

"While the fear-mongering over bringing any of the men to the U.S. is opportunistic and entirely political, we cannot support this latest move merely to shut down the symbol of Guantanamo without dismantling the injustice of Guantanamo. A change of scenery does nothing to restore the rule of law."
In other words, this is not any kind of change we can believe in.

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