As The New York Times reported on January 22, Barack Obama signed Executive Orders (EOs) banning torture and "directing the CIA to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp within a year, government official said."
The closure EO is titled: "Executive Order -- Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities."
Sec. 3 reads: "Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo. The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order. If any individuals covered by this order remain, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."
The EO also orders an "immediate review of all" detainees (by the Secretary of Defense within 30 days), diplomatic efforts with other governments relative to this order, halting all proceedings in the "United States Court of Military Commission Review to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered," and assuring that "humane standards of confinement" are observed in accordance with international humanitarian laws, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
It prohibits the following:
-- "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
-- outrages of personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;"
-- carrying out sentences or executions "without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples;" and
-- caring for the wounded and sick, including by an impartial body like the ICRC "offer(ing) its services to the Parties to the conflict."
On February 23, the Center for Constitutional Rights published a report titled: "Current Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo - Still in Violation of the Law." Below is a summary of its findings.
Guantanamo's existence and practices violate the letter and spirit of international and US laws, including the Constitution's First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments. The latter two prohibit cruel and unusual punishment and protect prisoners against treatment "that shocks the conscience," such as unsafe conditions, denial of social or family contact, and prolonged isolation. The First Amendment assures prisoners are allowed religious texts and books and may observe their faith freely.
Yet for over seven years, 240 men have had no rights and remain under the worst of "inhumane conditions." Most have never been charged and are innocent. Many were seized for bounty, and few have been able to challenge their detention in a habeas hearing, let alone get a fair trial in a US court.
Most are kept in supermax solitary confinement in Camps 5 and 6 or Camp Echo. Treatment is harshly punitive and includes isolation, sensory and sleep deprivation, brutal assaults, forced tube-feeding of hunger strikers, and environmental manipulation that combined gravely impair physical and psychological health and well-being.
Despite Obama's EO, "conditions at Guantanamo have not improved" and continue in violation of the law. Since it opened in 2002, CCR enlisted over 500 pro bono lawyers to represent hundreds of detainees. This report is based on "direct accounts from (them) and their attorneys," as recently as January and February 2009. The results are deeply disturbing.
Current Guantanamo Conditions