The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Pentagon is getting ready to shut down the cuban detention facility of Guantanamo Bay in order to “be prepared for any order from President-elect Barack Obama, who has promised to close the controversial” prison as son as he assumed office. Defense Secretary Bob Gates, not necessarily a favorite of this blog, asked his team to come up with a proposal on how to shut down Guitmo should Barack want to make it his first order of business. Oh Gates, you teacher pet you.

promises a delightful stay with team activities, costume parties and never ending sunshine!

Guantanamo Bay: a delightful stay with team activities, costume parties and never ending sunshine!

The first question concerns the detainees. What to do with approximatively inmates considered by US law as being “unlawful combatants” and a threat to national security? Are they going to send it to the high-security prison of Attica in New York State? Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell has no idea as of yet, but rest assured, he is working on it. “[we will] move the detainees from that facility while at the same time, of course, ensuring that we protect the American people from some dangerous characters”, he said at a news briefing.

This plan might have to address the brilliant idea that was the Military Commission system. The Military Commission Act, put in place in october 2006 in the quiet manner reserved to liberticide measures, created a vague, blurry legal framework in which every citizen or non-citizen suspected of participating in planning and/or committing an act of terrorism could be detained for an uncertain amount of time by the US forces, creating the domain of “unlawful combatant” (deserving, as a result, unlawful treatment) and holding them in the Guantanamo Bay prison, where they would basically not have any rights and suffer torture from the hands of specifically trained prison wardens in combat gear. The suspect was also meant to be judged by a martial court instead of the usual, legal criminal court, in order to ensure that no human rights-trained attorney would ever come and rain on the Military Commission’s parade with archaic concepts such as the Habeas Corpus.

Because the United States wants its reputation as a homely, welcoming and warm nation, the government will be trying to “negotiate homes in third countries” for about sixty specific detainees now cleared for release but cannot return to their homeland (Uzbekistan, Libya …) “for fear of being tortured”. After being arbitrarily arrested and suffering “stress and duress” treatment in a prison located in a different country to protect the United States from human rights law technicalities, I am nothing short of amazed at the US Government’s commitment to international criminal law, that requires a country to refuse extradition if the inmate is under danger of torture and/or a death sentence. After all, why would we let Libya do what we can do ourselves? I bet the treatment those sixty detainees will receive from both prison administrators and co-detainees will be just fubar compared to Khadafi’s cells.

On a last point, it seems the Bush administration has a little money left to spend on prisons: Gates’ think tank is very well aware that the government will have to build “appropriate facilities” in order to contain these new orange men (*) as “local and state authorities […] may not want terrorist suspects housed in prisons in their areas”. As it was precisely the reason why Bush had to go as far (sic) as Cuba to hold these prisoners captives, we can only believe that the closing of Guantanamo Bay will result in the building of the exact same facility on US territory, preferably a slightly extra-territorial state so as to preserve the good conscience (**) of the American population. I suggest Alaska. They could make the detainees pay for their own rape kit!

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, believes the closing of Guantanamo Bay “is an important first step toward turning the page on eight years of shameful policies that allowed torture and violations of domestic and international law,” he said in a statement. I can only agree with him on the issue, and salute Bob Gates’ anticipation of Obama’s commitment to human rights. I used to be skeptical of his presence in the new administration, but tackling such a controversial topic before Obama officially takes up the reigns is nothing short of admirable. This said, I will not rest until the Military Commission Act is officially null. Keep in mind US citizens are just as likely to fall under its regulation. In this country where everyone is  a potential enemy, fear manages to creep in the most unbelievable ways. It’s a start, but if there is one word we could say to Bob Gates, it’s that we want a tightly-knit safety net and a transparency report on the treatment that will be given to this detainees. This is a start, but it’s not enough.

(*) men in orange? Orange Men? Northern Irish politics? See what I did there?

(**) See post on the Right to Conscience bill. I’m on a roll today.