Thursday, February 26, 2009

Letter Urging the Release of 20 Gitmo Detainees

While some may have thought that President Obama's order calling for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay would begin to satiate opposition, the clamor and controversy around Gitmo continues to grow. Lawyers for some of the detainees sent a letter to President Obama today pleading with him to release their clients. One of the lawyers represents the 17 Uighurs held at Gitmo. These detainees have been in the prison for 7 years and have been granted their freedom by the federal courts. One of the other lawyers represents Lakhtar Boumediene (yes that Boumediene) and Saber Lahmar, and the other lawyer represents Mohammed el Gharani - all of whom have won their freedom in federal courts. The letter also claims that these detainees are still being subjected to harsh treatment at Gitmo.

Well, they've won their freedom in federal court what more could they ask for? While they've won their freedom they are still being held at Guantanamo. Gharani was cleared for release six weeks ago, Boumediene won his freedom in the landmark Supreme Court decision three months ago, and some of the Uighurs were cleared five years ago. The reason they are still being held there is that the U.S. cannot find anywhere to send them. Countries are refusing to take them, including the U.S., because they believe they are a security risk. This is understandable given the fact that the 17 Uighurs were definitely trained in an Al Qaeda facility. Recently the D.C. District court ordered that the Uighurs should be released into the U.S., but just last week the D.C. Circuit reversed that decision saying that they do not have a right to be released into the U.S. simply because they have a right to habeas corpus.

This is proof that unraveling Gitmo is going to be a monumentally difficult task. Simply closing down the facility is easy, but figuring out what to do with the prisoners there is something that we obviously still do not have a solution to. Some of the people held at Gitmo are known terrorists. Some of them we will be able to prosecute, but not all. If we can't prosecute them or hold them some other way then we will have to release them. However, we cannot release them to countries that we know will torture or kill them, and we cannot release them to countries that do not want to take them. That leaves us with the option of releasing them in the U.S. The public outcry that would follow that solution would be able to be measured on the Richter Scale so I don't think that will happen. Where does that leave us then? I fear that we are going to end up with a lot of former Gitmo detainees that we don't know what to do with and that in response we will devise some solution that is equally controversial to Gitmo. Maybe ship them to the military prison in Bagram. Of course, that would just leave us with a new Gitmo, and legal controversy already surrounds the Bagram facility. If you can't do any of the the above things then I can only speculate as to what the solution will be. I just hope that we can come up with some creative answers that do not involve even more suspicion of human rights violations.

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