Powell urges immediate closure of Guantanamo detention facilities

[JURIST] Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell [official profile] said Sunday that he favors the immediate closure [transcript] of all detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], adding that he would also "get rid" of the framework created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [PDF text] and instead prosecute terrorist suspects under existing federal law or military courts. In an appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press," Powell also criticized the denial of habeas corpus rights.

Powell said:

And if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I'd close it. And I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, "Well, then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus." So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system's all about? And, by the way, America, unfortunately, has two million people in jail all of whom had lawyers and access to writs of habeas corpus. And so we can handle bad people in our system. And so I would get rid of Guantanamo and I'd get rid of the military commission system and use established procedures in federal law or in the manual for courts-martial. I would do that because I think it's a more equitable way to do it and it's more understandable in constitutional terms. I would always—I would also do it because every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so, essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don't need it, and it's causing us far damage than any good we get for it. But, remember what I started in this discussion saying, "Don't let any of them go." Put them into a different system, a system that is experienced, that knows how to handle people like this.
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure cosponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) that restores habeas corpus rights to detainees [JURIST report]. In May, the US House of Representatives passed an amendment to a defense spending bill requiring the Pentagon to develop a Guantanamo shutdown plan [JURIST report]. AP has more.

 

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