As deadline approaches, Obama speeds up Guantánamo Bay closure
The Obama administration's announcement Sunday that 12 Guantánamo detainees would be sent to other countries followed news that some detainees would be transferred to an Illinois facility. The president set a Jan. 22, 2010 deadline for closing the Guantánamo Bay prison, but seems unlikely to meet it.
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Of the remaining six detainees whose transfer was announced Sunday, four are to be returned to Afghanistan, while two will be sent to Somaliland, an enclave inside conflict-torn Somalia. The transfers to Afghanistan raised fresh concerns about the conditions repatriated detainees will return to. Some may be treated well, but others may not, Dunbar says.Skip to next paragraph
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Transfer plans criticized
The announcement of the 12 new transfers was received with criticism, as was the plan unveiled last week for transferring detainees to an Illinois facility.
Amnesty International criticized the plan to transfer detainees to the US as merely “changing the Zip Code of Guantánamo,” while some Republican members of Congress assailed the plan for potentially offering civilian guarantees to wartime detainees.
“Once on US soil, terrorists can argue for additional rights that may make it harder for prosecutors to obtain a conviction,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas during a congressional hearing earlier this month on issue.
Others blame the “rush” to transfer detainees on Obama’s decision to close Guantánamo before the new administration knew how it would be done.
“What we are seeing now is a desperate effort to do something with these guys, but it all stems from the president preemptively closing off his options with his promise to close Guantánamo,” says Ralph Peters, a former Army intelligence officer with experience in the Middle East.
Obama’s critics from the left say the administration is perpetuating Bush’s system of indefinite detention by simply transferring them to Illinois.
But Mr. Peters says opening up the possibility of trials in US civilian courts means “a new type of combatant in a new form of warfare” will get access to rights imagined for either civilians or for 20th-century state-to-state warfare, he says.
Few combatants will be converted to the values of universal human rights by a civilian US trial, he adds. “The most just trial we can do is not going to cause a single terrorist to lay down his arms.”
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