January 12, 2009, New York, NY – Today, attorneys for Guantánamo detainees held a conference call to discuss their report on closing Guantánamo, including the newest and most comprehensive numbers and lists of detainee status by nationality. The three simple steps are: 1) send those who can go home home, 2) secure safe haven for those who cannot, and 3) charge those who can be charged and try them in ordinary federal criminal court.
Said Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “On the seventh anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees it turns out the single most important factor in determining who still remains at Guantánamo is nationality— whether we're talking about the approximately 60 men who cannot be returned home and need other countries to take them in, or about which countries have had the clout to get their people home. Closing the place down is not the great challenge it’s being made out to be. Let us close Guantánamo without delay and close this shameful chapter in our nation’s history. Let’s do it and be done with it.”
Yesterday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” President-elect Obama called closing the infamous prison camp “more difficult than a lot of people realize,” yet the attorneys who filed the first cases on behalf of the detainees, and are more knowledgeable about the issue than most , disagree.
"One of the most important things President Obama can do is shut down the fatally flawed military commissions on Day 1,” said Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler, U.S. military defense counsel for Canadian juvenile Omar Khadr. “If he does not act in the first six days of his administration, he will be the first president in U.S. history to preside over the trial of a child soldier for war crimes.”
Discussed during the call were three simple steps to closing the prison camp and an overview of the landscape the next president will inherit next Tuesday. Attorneys described the ways President Obama will need to resolve issues related to:
- The approximately 200 men who are in indefinite detention due to stalled negotiations with their home countries and the government’s refusal to embrace a charge or release policy;
- The 17 Uighurs ordered by a federal judge to be released into the US;
- The more than 40 other men who cannot be released to their home countries for fear of torture or persecution;
- The pending military commission processes, such as the imminent military commission trial of an alleged child soldier;
- The status of the habeas and appeals court litigation; and,
- The debilitating conditions for the hundreds of men still detained at Guantánamo.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court in 2007.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.