U.S. Citizens’ Right to Trial at Stake
December 13, 2011, New York – In the wake of the House-Senate conference’s approval of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
CCR urges President Obama to veto the NDAA. If he doesn’t, he will bear the blame for making indefinite military detention without trial a permanent feature of the U.S. legal system. He will be responsible for signing into law one of the greatest expansions of executive power in our nation’s history, allowing the government to lock up citizens and non-citizens without the right to fair trial. Indefinite detention is contrary to the most fundamental principles of the rule of law.
The NDAA would essentially prevent President Obama from bringing men from Guantánamo to the U.S. for trial and severely curtail his ability to resettle them in third countries. More than half of the men currently detained at Guantánamo – 89 of the 171 – have been unanimously cleared by the CIA, FBI, NSC and Defense Department for transfer or release. Yet no one has been transferred since last January, when Congress created restrictions similar to those in the NDAA. This marks the longest period without a transfer in the prison camp’s entire 10-year history and only underscores the president’s broken promise and failure to close Guantanamo.
As Obama himself, along with President Bush and NDAA co-sponsor Senator John McCain, acknowledged during the presidential campaign, Guantánamo’s very existence makes us less safe. Indeed, Guantánamo, Obama’s forever prison, has become a global symbol of human rights violations by a country that claims to be the world leader of freedom.
Are these the legacies Obama, the one-time professor of constitutional law, wants for his presidency?
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last 10 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.