The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Closing Guantanamo Will Restore US Leadership on Human Rights

A Statement From Elisa Massimino, Executive Director


Elisa Massimino, Executive Director of Human Rights First, responded
to reports today that President-elect Obama has begun to craft plans to
close the Guantanamo prison:

"By announcing his intention to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay
and bring to justice suspected terrorists held there, President-elect
Obama would send an important message that the United States will again
be a global leader on human rights.

While commendable that the President-elect is signaling his
willingness to tackle these challenges head on, how and where suspected
terrorists are prosecuted is critically important to restoring
America's commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

Based on a thorough investigation of U.S. terrorism trials and exhaustive research into the steps necessary to close the prison at Guantanamo
Human Rights First believes that the federal criminal justice system
has proven itself highly adaptable to the challenges of prosecuting
complex terrorism cases.

Among the many lessons learned from the misguided Guantanamo episode
is the danger of trying to create new ad hoc justice systems. Since
2002, only two military commission trials have been completed at
Guantanamo, and those trials focused more attention on the deeply
flawed commission processes than on the alleged crimes of the
defendants. In contrast, since 9/11, more than 100 international
terrorism cases have been prosecuted in the federal courts where judges
have successfully balanced the need to protect sensitive national
security information with defendants' fair trial rights.

We are eager to continue to work with President-elect Obama and his
advisers to fulfill his commitment to closing Guantanamo and bringing
suspected terrorists held there to justice."

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.