May 15, 2009, New York, New York – In response to President Obama’s announcement of his plans to revive the military commissions at Guantanamo, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), issued the following statement:
“Today’s announcement is an alarming development for those who expected that the Obama administration would end Bush administration’s dangerous experiments with our legal system. As a candidate, President Obama condemned the existing military commissions as an overwhelming failure, and he was right to do so. He was also right to suspend the commissions within days of taking office. There is no reason to revive them now on the hope that piecemeal changes could create a legal system at Guantanamo equal to the U.S. criminal justice or courts martial systems.
“If the Obama administration has reliable evidence that anyone at Guantanamo committed an act of terrorism or a violation of the laws of war, that man should be prosecuted criminally in civilian court under our criminal laws, including the War Crimes Act, or in certain cases, in a court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The cost to our country – diplomatically, legally and financially – of reviving the disreputable military commissions and continuing the Bush administration’s tinkering with the law is simply too great.
“President Obama was elected to restore the rule of law, not continue to reinvent it. As prior military commissions demonstrated repeatedly, no matter how the rules are rewritten, any new system will be slowed by the same trial-and-error process and repeated trips to the Supreme Court that we have seen over the last several years. Any novel system is sure to stumble and fail, and in the process betray the seriousness of the issues at stake and the need to ensure fair and impartial justice. It will substantiate our allies’ ongoing loss of faith in the commitment of the United States to the rule of law, and undermine their willingness to help the Obama administration close Guantanamo.”
CCR brought the first lawsuit challenging the detentions at Guantánamo and since then has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men still at Guantanamo. In addition, CCR has been central to the efforts to secure humanitarian protection in safe countries for the approximately 60 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 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.