President Obama (words thrilling to write!) has wasted no following through on his promise to close the atrocious Guantanamo Bay prison facility. Just hours after yesterday's historic inauguration, Obama ordered prosecutors to request a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings regarding Gitmo detainees. This is the first step toward shutting down Gitmo and shuttering the unconstitutional military commissions put in place by the Bush administration.
The Obama administration's instruction came in the cases of five men charged in the 9/11 attacks (including Khalid Sheik Mohammed) and a sixth man, Omar Khadr, on trial for allegedly killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15. Right now, there are 21 Gitmo detainees facing such war crimes trials, and 245 detainees total.
That this move came on Obama's very first day in office, coupled with the fact that it specifically applied to abused prisoner Mohammed, signals a fundamental depature with Bush's legacy of torture and human rights violations. Hopefully, it's just the beginning. What Obama must do next is shut down those controversial military tribunals altogether.
As Jamil Dakwar, director of the human rights program at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "This is a good step in the right direction, although we still think that the unconditional withdrawal of all charges and shutting down this tainted system is warranted. The president's order leaves open the option of this discredited system remaining in existence."
And then, as Olbermann noted in his special comment on inauguration eve, there's still the matter of prosecuting members of the Bush administration for torture.