For Immediate Release
NLG Calls on Obama to Close Guantanamo, Opposes National Secuity Courts
WASHINGTON - After
September 11, 2001, George W. Bush established the Guantánamo
Bay prison to enable the
United States to imprison
non-Americans indefinitely outside the reach and protection of both U.S.
and international law. The military
commissions and their trial procedures, created under the Military Commissions
Act of 2006, have been universally condemned by jurists, scholars and human
rights specialists as violating minimum fair trial standards and of being a sham
intended to secure convictions.
National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls
on President-elect Barack Obama to, on the first day of his presidency,
issue a presidential order closing Guantánamo Bay prison and ending military
NLG also urges
President-elect Obama to thereafter, ensure that Guantánamo Bay prisoners are
released, repatriated, resettled, or brought to trial (if there is probable
cause to believe they have committed a crime) in strict accordance with
international human rights and humanitarian law, and the principles of
fundamental justice pertaining to criminal proceedings including, but not
limited to, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Convention
against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United
States has ratified all of these treaties which makes their
provisions binding U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause
of the Constitution.
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NLG opposes the establishment of special national security courts. Although
President-elect Obama said in August, "It's time to better protect the
American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists
through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice,"
three Obama advisers told the Associated Press that the President-elect is
expected to propose a new court system to deal with "sensitive national security
cases." Concerns have been cited
about disclosure of classified information in civilian courts and
the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) provides a comprehensive and
effective method of protecting classified information in existing
U.S. courts. CIPA allows a judge to assess the
importance of sensitive evidence before it is disclosed in open court and, if
necessary, create a nonclassified substitute for use at trial. Former federal prosecutors Richard B.
Zabel and James J. Benjamin, Jr. studied the 107 post-9/11 cases and prepared a
171-page white paper for Human Rights First called In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism
Cases in the Federal Courts. They wrote, "[w]e are not aware of a single
terrorism case in which CIPA procedures have failed and a serious security
breach has occurred." National
security courts, they write, "would give the government more power and make it
easier for the government to secure convictions."
Bay prison is a legal black hole
that has become a symbol of injustice, abuse, and U.S. hypocrisy,"
said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn. "The National Lawyers Guild called for
its closure in 2005 and we are hopeful that President-elect Barack Obama will
finally end this disgraceful chapter in U.S. history."
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Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York, and it has chapters in every state.