President Obama Orders Guantánamo Closed and End to Torture

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

James Freedland, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

President Obama Orders Guantánamo Closed and End to Torture

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

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: www.closegitmo.com

A copy of the ACLU's Actions For Restoring America can be found online at: www.aclu.org/transition

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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