Gitmo – The End Nears

It’s what we’ve been crying out for, and now President Obama is on the job:

The US president, Barack Obama, has ordered a suspension of the controversial Guantánamo Bay military tribunals in one of his first actions after being sworn in, yesterday.

Within hours of taking office, Obama’s administration filed a motion to halt the war crimes trials for 120 days, until his new administration completes a review of the much-criticised system for trying suspected terrorists.

The motion, which will suspend cases against 21 men, was filed at the direction of Obama and Robert Gates, George Bush’s defence secretary, who has kept his job in the new administration.

It will be considered today by military judges hearing the cases of five men charged with plotting the September 11 attacks, and that of Omar Khadr, a Canadian who is accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan, in 2002. The judges will be required to suspend the other cases as well.

The halt to the tribunals was sought “in the interests of justice,” the official request to the judges said.

Excellent news, but as others have remarked – only a cautious first step. This isn’t a commitment to shutting the place down, nor of what fate awaits the inmates. If this is because not enough countries have volunteered to home enough of them, it would be helpful to know. Similarly it would be good to know whether the American legal system will pick up the rest – habeas corpus must be restored for these men, or it’s meaningless for the rest of the country.

The president’s nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, has said the military commissions lack sufficient legal protections for defendants and that they could be tried in the US.

Maybe we’re waiting for Holder’s confirmation.

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