- Barack Obama - counter-terrorism - USA
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U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has made no decision on how try detainees at Guantanamo Bay but remains committed to closing the prison, a senior foreign policy adviser said on Monday as human rights groups urged swift action.
Five human rights groups urged European governments to accept Guantanamo prisoners who cannot be sent home for fear of persecution, while a sixth group called on Obama to sign an order shutting the prison camp on the day he takes office.
The global efforts are aimed at pressuring Obama to make good on his campaign pledge to close the widely reviled detention camp at the U.S. naval base in Cuba and halt the special tribunals that try foreign terrorism suspects outside the regular courts.
"President-elect Obama, with a stroke of your presidential pen, on Day One of your administration, you can ensure that our government will be faithful to the Constitution and to the principles upon which America was founded," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a full-page ad in The New York Times.
"Give us back the America we believe in," the ACLU urged Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20.
Obama senior foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said Obama agreed the Guantanamo prison should be closed but no decision had been made on how to proceed.
"President-Elect Obama said throughout his campaign that the legal framework at Guantanamo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists, and he shares the broad bipartisan belief that Guantanamo should be closed," McDonough said in a statement.
"There is absolutely no truth to reports that a decision has been made about how and where to try the detainees, and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled," the statement added.
The detention camp is widely viewed as a stain on America's human rights record. It has held more than 750 captives from around the world since opening in 2002, including many who were caught up in sweeps or sold for bounties during U.S. efforts to route al Qaeda and associated groups after the hijacked plane attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
About 255 men are still held at Guantanamo, including 50 the United States has cleared for release but cannot repatriate for fear they will be tortured or persecuted in their home countries.
In Berlin, five international rights groups issued a joint call to European governments to help close Guantanamo by granting humanitarian resettlement and protection to those 50 captives, who are from nations that include China, Libya, Russia, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.
"This would have a double effect: helping to end the ordeal of an individual unlawfully held in violation of his human rights, and helping end the international human rights scandal that is Guantanamo," said Daniel Gorevan, who manages Amnesty International's "Counter Terror with Justice" campaign.
Joining Amnesty in the statement were the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and the International Federation for Human Rights. The groups issued the statement after a closed two-day meeting in Berlin.
"This is a key opportunity for both sides of the Atlantic to move beyond the misguided acts of the war on terror: rendition, secret detention, and torture," said Cori Crider, staff attorney at Reprieve, a British group that advocates for prisoners' rights.
The U.S. State Department's legal adviser and other senior officials have been traveling around Europe, North Africa and elsewhere trying to persuade nations to take home their Guantanamo prisoners.
Some governments have denied that the Guantanamo prisoners are in fact their citizens, while others have been reluctant to agree to U.S. requests to imprison or monitor Guantanamo returnees.