PRESIDENT OBAMA'S DECISION TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO IS APPLAUDED AS FIRST
22, 2009 -- New York, NY -- Today, with an order soon to be issued
by President Obama, the process of shutting down the prison at
Guantanamo Bay will be put in motion. This prison, opened more
than seven years ago and which has held nearly 800 prisoners, has
drawn international condemnation for its sidestepping of the rule of
law and for the unaccountability of its military trials. MADRE
welcomes the decision to end this chapter in US history and calls
for a rapid closure of the prison.
On the same day as his inauguration, President Obama directed
military prosecutors to seek a four month halt to six trials
currently in process. This break in the proceedings was
requested in order to allow President Obama and his administration
to review the cases pending before the military commissions.
There are currently 254 detainees being held at Guantanamo.
Vivian Stromberg, MADRE Executive Director, today said, "In the
name of national security, the US has for seven years flouted legal
standards and human rights established both internationally and in
the US. Closing down Guantanamo, and returning the land to
Cuba, is an important step towards upholding the rule of law and
ending such unfair military trials."
The military trials at Guantanamo have been further tainted by the
use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" or torture to
obtain evidence from prisoners. MADRE asserts that such
actions represent a blatant violation of international human rights
law. The closure of the prison at Guantanamo must signal an
end to such activities and increased transparency in the legal
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler, Vice-President of the MADRE board and
President of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice,
today said, "We are pleased that President Obama has called for
a halt to the prosecution of the Guantanamo detainees. But the
timing of the closing of the prison and the prosecution of those
responsible for criminal conduct on the part of US officials are
issues that still need to be resolved."
Vivian Stromberg further said, "The inauguration of President
Obama has created new opportunities for progressive action, and I am
heartened to see this in evidence with his decision to close
Guantanamo. But this is only a first step. MADRE is committed
to maintaining the necessary pressure to ensure that the prison is
closed and that the new administration upholds policies that respect
human rights. Our hope lies in the openness of this new
administration to respond to the calls of human rights
the board of MADRE in 1998. In 1968 She helped restart the
Columbia Law School Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (silenced
by the Red scare), and worked at the newly created Mass Defense
Committee to coordinate defense of those arrested during the
Columbia University Protests. After a stint at Legal Aid, Ms. Ratner
became an expert on grand jury law, representing grand jury
resisters nationwide and becoming the first director of the Grand
Jury Project. Ms. Ratner worked at the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR) as an attorney and educational director.
Ms. Ratner is the President of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for
Racial Justice, a foundation established in 1995 in the memory of
her late husband to combat racism in the criminal justice system.
With the Kunstler Fund, she has fought for the reform of New York
State's Rockefeller Drug Laws and helped hundreds of nonviolent
first-time drug offenders get out of prison.
MADRE's Communications Director, worked for several years as part of
a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights organization in Jerusalem
before joining MADRE. She has written extensively on US foreign
policy and women's human rights. Her critical analysis has appeared
in online and print publications such as TomPaine.com, Foreign
Policy in Focus, and The W Effect: Bush's War on Women, published by
the Feminist Press in 2004. Ms. Susskind has been featured as a
commentator on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio.
is an international women's human rights organization that works in
partnership with community-based women's organizations worldwide to
address issues of health and reproductive rights, economic
development, education, and other human rights. MADRE provides
resources, training, and support to enable our sister organizations
to meet concrete needs in their communities while working to shift
the balance of power to promote long-term development and social
justice. Since we began in 1983, MADRE has delivered nearly 25
million dollars worth of support to community-based women's
organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East,
Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and the United States.
more information about MADRE, visit our website at www.madre.org.