Obama's Human Rights Record

26 Jan 2010

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When Barack Obama became president of America he promised that the Guantanamo Bay prison would be closed in a year.

One year later, Guantanamo is still open with seemingly no end in sight for its 242 inmates.

Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights in America, denounces Obama’s human rights record in relation to the Guantanamo situation.

Ratner notes his disappointment (and anger) that Obama has not done enough to break with the legacy of the Bush administration.

Frowning upon the idea that people are spending extra days in prison when they shouldn't be there, Ratner reports that currently there are 90 people from Yemen in Guantanamo who have been cleared for release. Yet, they are still being detained. 

According to Ratner, there are people in Guantanamo who should never have been picked up in the first place, should not be in Guantanamo, and have been there too long.

Ratner contends that the CCR have been arguing that there are only two things one can do to people who are accused of crimes: you either charge them, try them and convict them -- or you release them.

There is no middle ground of 'preventive detention'. However, what is happening at Guantanamo is a huge preventive detention scheme, started by the Bush administration and now continued by Obama. Ratner argues that preventive detention schemes are wrong.

At the same time, Obama has said he would try some people such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, at a regular federal trial. This initiative is lauded by the CCR because trials, argues Ratner, have due process.

Nevertheless, while these trials are supported by the CCR, Ratner contends that they present great difficulties because of what the US has done to the individuals who are defendants, i.e., tortured them. Much of the evidence gathered under such circumstances will not be considered reliable.

Ratner is also critical of the fact that military commissions, not federal courts, will be used try some other detainees because this makes it easier to convict them. 

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/202.19.

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