Upon President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge that his first term in office, which begins Jan. 20, would see a motion toward closing Guantanamo Bay, many human and civil rights groups across the world gave a collective cheer. However, the issue is far from settled.
Indeed, the United Nations released a statement on the Dec. 22 saying that the Guantanamo facility allowed for the possibility of major human rights infringements because “the regime applied at Guantanamo Bay neither allowed the guilty to be condemned nor secured that the innocent be released.”
And whilst the United Nations have echoed President-Elect Obama’s pledge that doing so would end a dark period for the U.S. and help the American image throughout the world, critics point out that talking about closing the facility and actually doing so are two very different things, as the Bush administration found out when it too looked into means by which to retire the detention facility.
What Are the Issues Concerning the Guantanamo Bay Facility’s Closure?
Amongst the myriad issues, the primary problem to tackle is what the American government will actually do with detainees from Guantanamo, as not all nations want the return of the captives, or would torture them upon their return, something the U.S. should not and will not allow to happen.
Many are quick to point out that some of those being held in the Guantanamo Bay facility have never, in fact, been found guilty of anything, and that due legal process should be undertaken as a first step in closing Guantanamo.
By doing so, those who are put through the U.S. legal system will be sorted appropriately should they be found guilty, and should then be detained as any other criminal would be. However, if a person is found innocent, the problem of what to do with former detainees returns, as sending them back to their home countries still remains out of the question in most instances.
What Steps Will the Obama Administration Take in Retiring the Guantanamo Bay Facility?
It is likely that the first step Obama will take is to draw charges against those that are believed to have committed crimes, and sort those from the detainees who, whilst being “potential threats,” have not, in fact, broken any laws.
This will require a complete blank slate when it comes to the matter of obtaining evidence for prosecution, as one of the main criticisms against Guantanamo was a lack of transparency in obtaining sufficient cause for a guilty sentence, and therefore a case will have to be built against individuals suspected of terrorist criminal activity–which will likely be a lengthy and complex process involving several sectors of the U.S. government in conjunction with the F.B.I. and other foreign initiatives–but through this Obama will aim at restoring faith in the American legal system and trying to gaing back credibility in the way that the American government handles the detainees.
Obama will then have to embark on serious talks with European powers to secure places for those detainees found innocent of any crimes against the USA that can not be sent back to their own countries for fear of torture, persecution and death.
The Washington Post has reported that countries such as Germany and Portugal have indicated an openness to taking in the former prisoners; however, the movement and subsequent hand-over of the captives would have to be carefully planned and would provide large logistic problems to ensure all concerned the utmost safety.
Further to this, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have expressed due concern that those who can not be returned to their home nations not be taken from one detainment camp only to be placed in another like the recently opened off-shore Australian facility on Christmas Island (which is being used for asylum seekers, but some have seen parallels to the infamous Alcatraz), and ensuring that the closing of Guantanamo is more than just a token gesture.
Lastly, Obama will most likely have to reinforce a system that draws a line under the Guantanamo Bay years, making sure that it, and facilities like it, are never again needed by drawing up clear and concise plans to be used when dealing with suspected terrorists that utilize methods of information extraction and detainment in line with human rights practices.
This doesn’t mean “being soft” on terrorists as some far-right commentators have cried, but ensuring that America’s treatment of suspects is fair and in accord with the constitution and will therein fall in line with the UN’s assertion that it was imperative that such detainees be prosecuted under the federal penal system which must include the fundamental right to the habeas corpus.
For those conscerned about the abuse at Guantanamo Bay, be sure to voice your protest by signing this petition and keep the pressure on the American government. Thank you.
With thanks to jezobeljones for use of her Guantanamo picture under the Creative Commons 2.0 attribution license.