‘The possibility of a new, parallel system of lifelong incarceration inside the United States without charge would set a dangerous precedent’ - Naureen Shah
Responding to today’s announcement from the US President Barack Obama that his administration has submitted a plan to the US Congress to close the Guantánamo Bay detention site, Amnesty International welcomed the move but warned that the camp should be closed by addressing the problem head-on, not by shifting a host of injustices to the US mainland.
Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Director Naureen Shah said:
“We welcome President Obama’s commitment to finally close Guantánamo and aspects of this plan, but the proposal to move some of the detainees to the US mainland for continued detention without charge is reckless and ill-advised.
“It won’t appease members of Congress who appear bent on making Guantánamo a permanent offshore prison for individuals captured in a global, apparently endless war. And it won’t end indefinite detention - it will shift it to the US mainland.
“The possibility of a new, parallel system of lifelong incarceration inside the United States without charge would set a dangerous precedent. If successfully mounted, it would be a devastating blow to basic principles of criminal justice.
“President Obama is right to buck congressional opposition to closing Guantánamo and renew his support for options including prosecutions in regular federal courts. We welcome his rejection of the fear, hate, and ignorance that fuels Guantánamo’s continued existence.”
Amnesty International USA wrote to President Obama in October urging that any plan to close Guantánamo must end indefinite detention without charge or trial, abandon military commissions in favour of federal courts, and ensure accountability and redress for human rights violations.
The military commissions simultaneously fail to respect human rights principles or achieve justice. Amnesty wishes to see justice done in response to the crimes against humanity committed on 11 September 2001, but the organisation insists that Guantánamo and the military commissions have not - and cannot - provide that justice. Those who lost loved ones in the attacks deserve to see justice in their lifetime, while the military commission trials seem unlikely to begin - much less conclude - for years to come, and when they do take place they will fail to meet international fair trial standards. Amnesty is calling for trials for human rights violations and crimes under international law to take place before civilian courts, not military courts, and opposes the trial of civilians by military courts.