‘Changing the Zip Code of Guantanamo’

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm

That’s a quote about housing Guantanamo detainees in the Thomson Correctional Center, courtesy of a statement from Tom Parker of Amnesty International. Judging from my inbox, the longer civil libertarians look at the Obama administration’s plans for Thomson, the less they like it. A measured response from Human Rights First:

“Closing the Guantanamo detention facility is a necessary and important step toward strengthening counterterrorism efforts and rebuilding the reputation of the United States as a nation committed to the rule of law,” stated Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First’s President and CEO. “We are deeply concerned, however, about the persistent implication that a substantial number of Guantanamo prisoners will be held indefinitely, without charge or trial.”

Vince Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights:

If President Obama is simply moving detainees from one Guantánamo to another, he has done nothing to honor his pledge to close the prison camp. The vast majority of detainees remaining at Guantánamo will never be charged with anything. Yet the president has made clear that he believes he can continue to hold these men, most of whom have already been in Guantánamo for eight years and should never have been detained in the first place, for as long as he wants without any trial whatsoever.

Moving the Guantánamo system onshore is not change. Whether in Thomson, IL, at Guantánamo, or elsewhere, the very idea that we would toss aside our founding constitutional principles and allow any executive the power of kings to imprison someone forever without a trial is anathema to democracy.

David Remes, who represents 20 Guantanamo detainees, emails to say, “It would only perpetuate the injustice of Guantanamo to use Thomson to hold detainees indefinitely without charge. We’ve been holding these men without charge going on eight years. It’s enough. These men don’t need to be moved from one prison to another. That’s no fix. They need to be sent home. And in the case of men who can’t be sent home, other countries must be persuaded to take them.”

Well, that remains “notional,” according to a senior administration official. For now, the planned Thomson cohort will face charges in military commissions. I don’t expect any civil liberties organ to be happy with that, as the community by and large is pushing for trials in civilian federal courts. But it’s not the same thing as indefinite detention without charge.

I can’t wait to see what my inbox looks like after this post…

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