Obama Administration Misses Deadline to Close Guantánamo

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

Obama Administration Misses Deadline to Close Guantánamo

ACLU Urges Closure of Prison and End to Indefinite Detention

NEW YORK - The
Obama administration missed the deadline today to close the prison at
Guantánamo Bay. On his second full day in office, President Obama
signed an executive order to close the prison within a year. Today, the
date that the prison was to have been closed, the facility remains open.

According to news reports today, the
administration has decided to continue to detain without trial nearly
50 of the 198 Guantánamo prisoners because a presidential task force
concluded that "they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous
to release." The American Civil Liberties Union disputes that any
significant category of such detainees exists, and renews its call for
the closure of the prison and an end to the illegal policy of
indefinite detention without charge or trial.

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

"An important deadline was missed
today. One of the most shameful chapters of American history was to
have been brought to a close with the shuttering of the prison at
Guantánamo Bay. Sadly, the prison remains open. While the
administration has encountered both external and self-imposed obstacles
to closing the facility, it is critical that it not give in to a sense
of inertia and that the prison be shut down as soon as possible.

"But just as important as closing
the prison quickly is closing it right, and that means putting an end
to the illegal policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial.
While the administration should transfer prisoners to the U.S. for
federal court trials, it should not create a 'Gitmo North' by bringing
them to facilities in the U.S. or anywhere else to be illegally held
without due process. This practice was wrong in Cuba and would remain
so here, reducing the closure of Guantánamo to a symbolic gesture.

"If the U.S. is to truly move
forward and regain its moral footing, the administration must ensure
that the shameful policies of the past are never repeated, on U.S. soil
or elsewhere. It would be an error of historic proportions to miss this
crucial window of opportunity for turning the page on the tragic
policies of the past."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"The Obama administration continues
to insist that there is a substantial number of Guantánamo prisoners
who are simultaneously too dangerous to release and too difficult to
prosecute, but if there is credible evidence that these prisoners are
dangerous, there is no reason why that evidence could not be introduced
against them in criminal trials. The criminal laws, and the material
support laws in particular, are broad enough to reach anyone who
presents a serious threat, and the federal courts are fully capable of
affording defendants fair trials while protecting the government's
legitimate interest in protecting information that is properly
classified.

"It's worth asking what the Obama
administration really means when it proposes that prisoners are 'too
difficult to prosecute.' In at least some of these cases, the concern
seems to be that the government's evidence has been 'tainted' by
interrogators' use of methods that constitute cruel treatment or
torture under domestic and international law. But that kind of
'evidence' is not evidence at all. Our justice system excludes coerced
evidence not only because coercion and torture are illegal, but because
coerced evidence is unreliable. If evidence is too unreliable to
justify detention after criminal trial, it is certainly too unreliable
to justify indefinite detention without trial."

The ACLU unveiled a new Web site
today focusing on indefinite detention, and the need to either charge
or release detainees that are not properly held under the laws of war.
The Web site includes news and documents related to indefinite
detention, as well as videos featuring former Guantánamo detainees
speaking about their experience.

The ACLU's new online resource on indefinite detention can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/indefinitedetention

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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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