Obama Reverses Stance on Guantanamo Military Trials
US President Barack Obama yesterday reversed his 2009 executive order halting military trials of terrorism suspects detained at the American concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The President’s move paves the way for renewed trials by military commissions, albeit with a new set of procedures. Despite his reversal, Obama said he “remained committed” to eventually closing the GITMO concentration camp, but he gave no indication of when that closure might occur.
Upon taking office in January 2009, one of the first things the newly inaugurated President Obama did was to sign an order to shut GITMO down within one year. But Congress stymied the President’s plan to move GITMO detainees stateside, where they would have faced trial in civilian courts. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, DC, still has yet to be tried as a result of this conflict between the President and Congress, which suffered a severe bout of NIMBYism– “not in my backyard.”
Along with the new policy comes new rules. President Obama issued an executive order requiring periodical status reviews for all detainees to determine whether they should continue to be held, scheduled for trial, or released. The executive order also mandates compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other international prohibitions on torture and inhumane treatment. The President said the new rules would “broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees.”
New charges are expected to be brought against GITMO detainees within the next couple of weeks. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national accused of plotting the 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, is expected to be among the first brought before a military commission, according to the New York Times. Al-Nashiri, however, was tortured by his American captors (including by waterboarding), and this could complicate any legal action against him.
President Obama’s order applies only to the 172 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo. Since Obama took office, 67 detainees have been released to 24 different countries. During the Bush administration, around 500 GITMO inmates were released. Most of them were innocent or low-level fighters.
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