By Josh Gerstein, Politico
A coalition of civil liberties, human rights and religious groups is pressing President Barack Obama to follow through on his commitments to kick start the largely stagnant process of closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects.
The groups note that it’s been more than four months since Obama promised to reinvigorate the process by naming new envoys to oversee Guantanamo policy and by pressing forward with transferring prisoners to other countries.
After comments on the issue in April and May, Obama did name Washington lawyer Cliff Cloan in June as the State Department’s envoy for Guantanamo closure. An announcement of a parallel appointment at the Pentagon was expected shortly thereafter, but has never come.
“After more than four months only two detainees have been transferred out of the 166 men who were held at Guantanamo on the day of your speech,” say the groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Human Rights Watch and the U.S. branch of the Presbyterian Church.
The letter continues: “The problems caused by the lack of an envoy at the Defense Department have been compounded by the recent departure of the Pentagon head of Detainee Affairs and the absence of a permanent General Counsel. Vacancies in these critical positions have resulted in a leadership void within the Defense Department, which has delayed decisions and actions needed to reduce the population at Guantanamo by transferring cleared detainees to foreign countries that will respect their human rights.”
In addition to the two releases, there has been at least one other glimmer of a new approach. Last week, the Justice Department quietly conceded a habeas case brought by mentally ill Sudanese national Ibrahim Idris, who is held at Guantanamo. The resulting court order to release Idris could expedite Idris’s transfer out of Gitmo. (Read the letter)