News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. Mar. 8, 2011: U.S. President Barack Obama has gone back on his promise again, now saying suspected terrorists at the U.S. navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba can face new military trials.
The announcement on Monday ends the freeze on new prosecutions under the military commission system that he had put in place shortly after taking office in 2009.
The commissions are military proceedings rather than trials in civilian courts. Obama also authorized prosecuting Guantanamo detainees in U.S. criminal courts when appropriate.
“From the beginning of my Administration, the United States has worked to bring terrorists to justice consistent with our commitment to protect the American people and uphold our values,” stated Obama. “Today, I am announcing several steps that broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees. I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system – including Article III Courts – to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened. Going forward, all branches of government have a responsibility to come together to forge a strong and durable approach to defend our nation and the values that define who we are as a nation.”
The White House, however, insisted it remains committed to closing the controversial detention facility. The President had previously pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay facility within a year of taking office in January 2009. But it remains open to date.
Human-rights groups and other countries had criticized the military trials, citing a lack of fairness. About 170 detainees remain jailed at the prison.