We welcome President Obama's directive, only hours into his first day in office, to suspend military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. The order is widely viewed as the first step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to close the atrocity that is Guantanamo, a move long overdue.
The motion, which will suspend cases against 21 men, represents the same mix of symbol and substance that for now is Obama's presidency. For the hopeful among us, it is also what the American Civil Liberties Union called "the first ray of sunlight in what has been eight long years of darkness."
There are an estimated 245 so-called terrorism suspects at Guantanamo. Some have been held for as long as seven years without any access to due process.
Rights groups have praised the move to halt tribunals as a necessary first step toward closing Guantanamo, and restoring the rule of law so blithely abandoned during Bush's "global war on terror."
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"By suspending the military commissions, the Obama administration begins the task of denying those who would harm Americans the best recruiting tool the Bush administration ever gave them - Guantanamo," said Gabor Rona, International Legal Director of Human Rights First (HRF), a New York-based lawyers' group. "President Obama's actions sends a message that even one more day of proceedings in violation of American and international law should not occur on his watch."
The order to halt the tribunals was issued "in the interests of justice." We couldn't have said it any better.