U.S. President Barack Obama signed an order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, used for the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects, on his second day in office on Thursday. Suspending trials for detainees at Guantanamo for 120 days, Obama’s first executive order is to shut down Gitmo along with the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret overseas prisons within a year.
He also signed an executive order to prevent abusive interrogation methods and use the 19 techniques laid out in the Army Field Manual as the guide for extracting information from prisoners. The de facto measure is aimed at stopping the use of torture in detention facilities.
Obama has drawn a sharp line between himself and the failed policies of the previous administration, distancing himself from the gross human rights violations perpetrated under the guise of the war against terror. It was a critical first step in implementing the rule of law. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 558 terrorist suspects from 41 nations including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq, were transferred to Guantanamo Bay without being allowed legitimate legal procedures. The prison now holds 245. The detainees, in their orange uniforms and leather restraints, have become a symbol America’s departure from its founding principles of human rights, democracy and morality.
The CIA has been running secret detention facilities in a number of countries in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, in order to avoid restrictions imposed by international and American laws banning torture when interrogating terror suspects. Although he faces real problems as far as what to do with the detainees when the facilities are closed, President Obama didn’t hesitate to shut them down, keeping his public pledge. It is the right choice, and represents America’s strong will to change.
In a welcome ceremony for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said, “We should bear in mind that America’s power comes not only from military power and wealth, but from its core values.”
Clinton declared that they will begin a new era in American diplomacy, using “smart diplomacy.” The statement indicated that an intelligent approach to diplomacy would be the Obama administration’s top priority when it comes to foreign policy.
We wholeheartedly welcome the closure of Guantanamo as the Obama administration’s first step in realizing its firm beliefs, and displaying them to the world.