Monday, March 7, 2011

Obama to resume military trials for detainees at Guantánamo Bay

By Sam Youngman

President Obama on Monday ordered trials by military commission to resume at Guantánamo Bay.

The move signals another defeat for Obama, who pledged to close the terrorist detention facility in Cuba within one year of taking office.

In a fact sheet, the White House said Obama “remains committed” to closing the facility, but the president’s decision to lift the ban on military commissions signals the unlikelihood that Obama will successfully transfer all of the prisoners in Cuba.

Shortly after Obama came to office and announced his goal of closing the facility, the administration suspended new charges in military commissions in Cuba.

But on Monday, Obama directed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to “issue an order rescinding his prior suspension on the swearing and referring of new charges in the military commissions.”

The White House said that the president ordered changes in how the commissions were run to make them more fair.

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“The administration, working on a bipartisan basis with members of Congress, has successfully enacted key reforms, such as a ban on the use of statements taken as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and a better system for handling classified information,” the White House said.

“With these and other reforms, military commissions, along with prosecutions of suspected terrorists in civilian courts, are an available and important tool in combating international terrorists that fall within their jurisdiction while upholding the rule of law.”

Additionally, Obama by executive order created a periodic review process for detainees who cannot be tried or released because they represent a continued threat to national security.

The White House said the review “will help to ensure that individuals who we have determined will be subject to long-term detention continue to be detained only when lawful and necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States.”

“If a final determination is made that a detainee no longer constitutes a significant threat to our security, the Executive Order provides that the Secretaries of State and Defense are to identify a suitable transfer location outside the United States, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and applicable law,” the fact sheet said. “As the president has stated before, no Guantánamo detainee will be released into the United States.”