Eideard

Send civilian judges to Gitmo – then shut it down!

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President Obama has once again pledged to close the Guantánamo Bay prison. But can he back up his brave words with decisive action?

The answer is yes, if he chooses to.

At present, legislation bars him from sending the Guantánamo detainees to the mainland United States to receive justice from the federal courts, leaving them to be tried by slow-moving military commissions that deny them many of the guarantees of civilian legal procedure. Nevertheless, the president has a way forward. He can, on his own authority, send federal judges to Guantánamo, where they could resolve the remaining cases in trials everyone can respect.

Previous presidents have established federal civilian courts on territory under American military control without going through Congress. The clearest precedent was set in postwar Germany…

Nothing prevents President Obama from establishing a similar court at Guantánamo, where 166 prisoners remain under indefinite detention and about 100 have gone on a hunger strike. Acting under his authority as commander in chief, the president should quickly direct a team of district judges to try the detainee cases in Guantánamo under civilian criminal procedures. Such an order should also create a panel of federal judges to hear appeals…

We have reached the point of no return. Since President George W. Bush revived military commissions in 2001, half a dozen prosecutors have resigned in protest and Congress has twice passed legislation in efforts to create a system that might win public confidence.

Now the escalating hunger strike has led to forced feedings and physical confrontations in which guards have used nonlethal bullets to quell unrest. It is only a matter of time before suicide attempts further intensify the cycle of resistance and repression…

Constitutional lawyers always prate about ordinary citizens failing to comprehend the value of Human Rights is that the most important time to defend those rights – is when you really hate to do so.

The point, of course, is that Congress and Presidents are equal cowards when they have to face the same question.

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Written by Ed Campbell

May 7, 2013 at 8:00 am

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