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US: Close Guantanamo – Not Tomorrow, but Today

No Need to Wait for Transfers or Creation of Military Commissions

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call to President George W. Bush in a letter today to close immediately the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights Watch said the continued detention of hundreds of men without charge has undermined US efforts to end terrorism.

“Guantanamo has hurt the United States far more than it has hurt its enemies,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Its closure would help restore the moral authority America needs to effectively fight terrorism and promote the rule of law.”

An Associated Press story reported yesterday that the fate of Guantanamo’s future was slated as a discussion topic at a high-level White House meeting scheduled for today. White House officials subsequently issued a statement reiterating their desire to close Guantanamo, but denied that any such meeting would take place. The White House also suggested that several steps needed to be taken before closure, including the creation of military commissions in the United States and the repatriation of the detainees who have already been cleared for release or transfer.

Human Rights Watch said that neither is a legitimate reason for delaying the closure of Guantanamo. The federal courts in the United States have proven far better equipped to try terrorists than military commissions. In the past five-and-a half years, the federal courts have successfully convicted hundreds for terrorist offenses, including dozens for terrorist acts committed abroad. By comparison, the military commissions have secured just one conviction – by guilty plea. That was Australian David Hicks, who received a nine-month sentence that he is serving at home. Moreover, there is no reason why the detainees who have been cleared for release or transfer cannot be repatriated from the United States, rather than from Guantanamo.

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