[JURIST] Four human rights groups sent a letter [text] Friday urging US President Barack Obama [official website] to permit them full access to the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention center to assess the conditions and report on possible recommendations for changing US detention policies. The four groups, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International (AI), and Human Rights First [advocacy websites] were granted observer status to Guantanamo in August 2004, but they have not yet been allowed access to the detention center. According to the letter the groups promise to:
provide an outside assessment of current conditions and, as improvements are made, credibly, independently, and publicly report them to the world. Such access and reporting would further the objectives of the current Department of Defense (DoD) review and amplify the international benefits of improving conditions at the camps. Our presence itself will be welcomed as another break from the prior administration's policies on detainees, and set an example of transparency that will help advance human rights worldwide.Last week, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directed that the military prison at Guantanamo 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 immediately to 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. Obama's order has been hailed [JURIST report] by leaders around the world.