Obama's First Executive Order: Shut Down Guantanamo Bay

January 13, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order on his first day in office to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, according to media reports. The Muslim Public Affairs Council expressed its support today for the immediate shut down of the controversial detention center and suspending the military commissions system for trying detainees.

SEE: "Obama's Plan to Close Prison at Guantanamo May Take Year" (New York Times)

Obama's decision to shut down Guantanamo is a much-needed signal to Americans and people throughout the world that the new administration is committed to resurrecting traditional American legal values.

MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati said:

"Detainee conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay undermine our commitment to human rights, and soil America's image abroad. Our nation's ability to win the war depends on our willingness to stick to the principles that define us. Let us hope that the closure of Guantanamo will end the era of secret detention facilities, secret trials, indefinite detention, and overly broad executive authority."

MPAC has repeatedly urged government officials to close Guantanamo, prohibit the use of torture in interrogations, and has opposed the Bush administration's decision to try the detainees using military tribunal rules. Military tribunal rules do not guarantee an independent trial court, do not provide for impartial appellate review, and do not prohibit the use of coerced testimony despite extensive evidence that coercive interrogation techniques have been used at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. In August 2007, MPAC joined a coalition of public interest and religious groups to file a joint friend-of-the-court, amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of basic Constitutional rights.

Since it was opened in 2002, Guantanamo Bay held as many as 750 men and today holds 248 prisoners. At least 42 prisoners are currently on a hunger strike to protest their confinement, according to Reuters. Obama reportedly seeks to transfer some of the remaining the prisoners to other countries and must still determine how other prisoners will be tried. The process is likely to take anywhere from six months to one year.

Many detainees, some as young as 14 years old, have been held for more than six years without access to any court, legal counsel or family visits. Many of these detainees allege they have been subjected to torture or other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, according to an Amnesty International Report entitled "Guantanamo: Lives Torn Apart."


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