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Obama Acts "In the Interest of Justice" To Halt Tribunals

State of Change

The Nation
posted by John Nichols on 01/21/2009

Apparently Barack Obama took his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" a tad more seriously than did his predecessor.

Lawyers for the United States government -- the one now led by Obama -- acted even as the inaugural celebrations were going on to halt the Guantánamo Bay military commission trials.

Obama, in one of his first official acts, ordered a suspension of the trials, which had been adjourned in anticipation of the transition of authority from former President George Bush to his successor.

The motion filed by Obama's lawyers called for a 120-day moratorium on legal proceedings so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration that initiated the controversial trials, joined in the motion.

The order to halt to the tribunals was issed "in the interests of justice," according to the official request to the military judges.

"The suspension of military commissions so soon after President Obama took office is an indication of the sense of urgency he feels about reversing the destructive course that the previous administration was taking in fighting terrorism," declared Gabor Rona, the international director of Human Rights First.

Obama must, of course, do much more in the interest of justice. "It's a great first step but it is only a first step," notes Rona. "It will permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration to undertake a thorough review of both the pending cases and the military commissions process generally."

But Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Guantánamo suspects told BBC Radio 4: "It's going to take some work but what he [Obama] is looking at I think here is a very clear-cut distinction between this administration and the last."

That would seem to be a fair assessment of the moment, and the beginning of definition of change we can believe in.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)