Barack Obama, the US president, has ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp within one year and a review of the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration to try detainees.
Obama also signed an order ending the harsh interrogation of prisoners held by the US and the closure of any secret prisons run by the CIA.
The order to close the controversial prison, a symbol of detainee abuse and detention without charge under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, fulfilled a promise Obama made during his campaign and signaled the urgency he felt about improving the U.S. image abroad.
"We...will uphold our fundamental values as vigilantly as we protect our security," Obama said during an afternoon visit to the State Department. "I can say without equivocation that the United States will not torture."
In the first of three executive orders Obama set a one-year deadline for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and kicked off a review process to deal with relocating, releasing or prosecuting the remaining detainees. The order halts the military commissions set up to try prisoners and requires that conditions at the facility until its closure be humane.
Deciding to close the facility is the first step in a complicated process to determine the fate of its 250 inmates, many of whom have been held for years "without trial".
A senior White House official said a task force would study what to do with prisoners who could not be transferred to other countries or tried in U.S. courts. He said "improved" military commissions could result from that study.
The European Union and human rights groups welcomed Obama's announcement, which he made in the company of 16 retired military leaders at the White House.
Humane treatment, no more detention
Obama's second executive order requires the CIA to close secret detention centers overseas that generated controversy in Europe and prohibits creation of such sites in the future. The White House was looking into ways to shed light on how the centers were started in the first place, the official said.
The order also mandates that interrogations of prisoners follow the U.S. Army Field Manual guidelines, which ensures that detainees get humane treatment under the Geneva Conventions -- treaties Bush had said need not be followed.
The order creates a task force to study rendition policies for transferring prisoners to other countries. The senior administration official said the United States would not transfer prisoners to countries where they might be tortured.
A third order creates a task force of top Cabinet members to conduct a broad review of detainee policy going forward, with a report due to the president within 180 days.
A final memorandum assures that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a prisoner now held in South Carolina, will get the same review as prisoners at Guantanamo.
Obama also directed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to report back within 30 days on conditions at the prison now.
Americans are divided over closing Guantanamo, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll released on Wednesday. The survey, carried out before Obama's inauguration, found that 51 percent said it should close, while 47 percent said it should stay open.
Guantanamo was set up by the Bush administration in 2002 to hold prisoners it detained as part of its so-called war on terror.
More than 240 prisoners remain held there, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is suspected of planning the September 11 attacks on the US.
Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 11:03