Goodbye Gitmo?

JESSICA MEYER
COLUMNIST

From the Oct. 30, 2009 Argus

Flipping through this week's news, I salivated at how many articles focused on human rights topics. Even more exciting was the amount that focused on the United States. Nothing like a good in-depth exposure of things most government officials like to keep covered up.

One article in particular updated us on the Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) issue that has been in the back of every one's mind since President Barack Obama declared he would close the detention camp in Cuba by the end of January 2010.

The financial crisis and healthcare dilemma could not have come at a better time for those that wish to keep the torture camp open for as long as possible.

The fact that Illinois Wesleyan just hosted Pratik Shah, the current assistant to the solicitor general from the U.S. Department of Justice, shows this is still very much on the minds of Americans today. During his visit to IWU, Shah spoke specifically on Gitmo prisoners and the issue of habeas corpus, the law that necessitates people under arrest to be brought before a court or a judge.

There are a lot of very serious problems with the ways the government is dealing with the current prisoners of Gitmo as well as what to do with them once the Bay is closed.

The Bush Administration left Obama with 241 detainees when he first came to office. There are now 221, which is a lot less than what most human rights activists hoped for.

The task force has cleared over 100 to go free, and more than 150 have filed for habeas corpus, petitioning for their freedom.

Luckily, there has been some progress, as Shah talked about when he won habeas corpus rights for his clients in the case Boumediene v. Bush.

The Supreme Court seems to be moving toward granting a basic right to trial for Gitmo prisoners, but the question after that is where will they go if released? Many are afraid of going back to their home countries because of torture threats, while others are not being accepted by their native lands at all.

Another question is simply where the prisoners will go when the Bay is closed, and they need to be moved to another facility.

Now, the U.S. has made major mistakes by taking people with no credible evidence of terrorism into custody at Gitmo and holding them indefinitely without trial.

They add to this by torturing and mistreating the prisoners. This has been exposed and is slowly walking down that road of justice and reprimands for those responsible for these human rights violations. If Obama thought the closing of Gitmo would stop the problems of it, he was a bit naive.

The new problem the U.S. government will soon deal with is where to move those prisoners still at Gitmo once it has been abandoned. The one thing they do know is they will be denied entry into the U.S., even if it's the only place they can go.