The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] on Thursday used the death of a Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detainee to highlight what it claims are problems with the detention system [press release] currently used by the US for dealing with suspected terrorists. The detainee, Awal Gul, had been at the Guantanamo Bay detention center since October 2002, suspected of having aided the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan [DOD press release, PDF]. Gul died on Tuesday of an apparent heart attack after he had completed some aerobic exercises. The CCR believes that the circumstances surrounding Gul's death illustrate the inherent problem with the detention center and the policy the US follows in detaining and indefinitely holding suspected terrorists, claiming that the facility has become a purgatory, where people are held indefinitely:
Awal Gul's death illustrates too well what Guantanamo has become - a prison where Muslim men are held indefinitely until they die because the president lacks political courage to release or charge them in any forum. President Obama must close Guantanamo lest more detainees die there, including roughly 90 men who are approved for transfer at some undetermined point in the future.Gul's attorney also released a statement, echoing many of the same issues raised by the CCR and taking issue with the DOD's press release which included claims against Gul that were not raised while he was alive.
As the number of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility decreases, the issue of what to do with those remaining in US custody continues to be a significant issue. In January, Human Rights Watch criticized President Barack Obama [JURIST report] for failing to shut down the facility as he promised during the 2008 presidential campaign. Earlier last month, Obama signed a defense authorization bill that prohibits the transfer of detainees to the US for trial [JURIST report], further confusing the future of the 177 men currently at the facility. In an effort to reduce the population at the facility, the US has been transferring detainees [JURIST report], some to their native countries.