RIGHTS-PAKISTAN: Awaiting Gitmo’s Closure

Published on IPSnews, by Zofeen Ebrahim, January 12, 2009.

RIGHTS-PAKISTAN: Awaiting Gitmo’s Closure, By Zofeen Ebrahim, KARACHI, Jan 6 (IPS) – “I’ve thought a lot about what my first meeting with my father will be like after all these years. I don’t know how I’d react. I don’t even know what to expect,” said Muneeza Paracha, 26, daughter of Saifullah Paracha, incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay since September 2004 …

… “Our hopes have been raised so many times, and then dashed, and despite assurances from our government, and Barack Obama’s plans to close the prison, I cannot be sure till I see my father here,”
said Muneeza. “His [Obama’s] priority maybe different from mine,” said Muneeza, adding, “I’m not sure if he will be able to close Gitmo as soon as he steps into the Oval Office, and then it may not be as easy either.”

Closing the detention facilities is easier said than done, and the Obama administration may have to wade through a sea of legal, diplomatic, political and logistical issues.

Obama is expected to close Gitmo by an executive order and have the inmates sent to other prison facilities in the U.S. They could be charged with offences that can be tried in federal courts or court-marshalled under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Among the thorniest of issues is that of 17 Chinese Uighurs, who were detained by Pakistani officials seven years ago, following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. No more considered “enemy combatants,” they will now be taken by the U.S. since no country will accept them and they cannot be sent to China where they fear they will be persecuted.

Another is that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who is among the 30 to 80 detainees considered most dangerous. It is learnt that he will be among those who will be tried in the U.S.

Obama must heed the heads of four prominent civil liberties and human rights organisations – the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch – who have, in a letter to the President-elect, reminded him of his promise.

The letter suggests that after stepping into office, Obama should immediately set a date for the closure of the prison. The next step should be a review of all detainee records by the justice department.

Where no evidence is found against the detainee he should be repatriated to his home country for trial or release. If there is a risk of torture or abuse, he should be transferred to a third country that will accept him or be admitted to the U.S. (full text).

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