[JURIST] Human rights figures and political leaders around the world hailed Thursday's executive order [text; JURIST report] by US President Barack Obama closing the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST archive] detention facility. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Navi Pillay [official profile] welcomed the decision [statement; video] to close the prison, expressing hope that it would be closed soon and that the trials of detainees would take place in ordinary courts rather than in military commissions, which she said should be disbanded. Pillay called for accountability for those who controlled centers like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and for compensation for those detainees found to be innocent. UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website] similarly welcomed the news as a sign of goodwill, but once again alluded [JURIST report] to the administration's obligation to do justice by prosecuting the parties responsible for detainee abuses, and said freed inmates should be allowed to sue the US if they suffered harm. The European Union (EU) Czech Presidency [official website] issued a statement [text] welcoming Obama's order as a gesture of "great symbolic and practical significance [that] could facilitate strengthening transatlantic counter-terrorism and security cooperation, based on the respect of international law and human rights." In Cuba, Foreign Minister Felipe Roque [official profile, in Spanish] also welcomed the news, but called for the US to completely close the military base and return the land to Cuban sovereignty. President Hamid Karzai [official website] of Afghanistan said closing Guantanamo that it would help build international support in combating terrorism.
Obama's order directed that the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." The order also instructed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to immediately halt military commission [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] proceedings pending a comprehensive review of all Guantanamo detentions under the supervision of the Attorney General. The order did not specify where detainees would go upon release, but it did call for diplomatic efforts with foreign states in order to facilitate the closure of the facility.