Develop Alternative to President Bush's Military Commissions Act on Handling Detainees

Promise in the Works President Obama is working on the following promise:

"He will reject the Military Commissions Act, which allowed the U.S. to circumvent Geneva Conventions in the handling of detainees. He will develop a fair and thorough process based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice to distinguish between those prisoners who should be prosecuted for their crimes, those who can't be prosecuted but who can be held in a manner consistent with the laws of war, and those who should be released or transferred to their home countries." — "Barack Obama: The War We Need to Win"


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Updated: January 21, 2009

Obama moves toward scrapping the Military Commissions Act

On the day he was inaugurated, the Obama administration took a definitive step toward fulfilling the promise of developing an alternative to President Bush's Military Commissions Act when it directed prosecutors to file a motion seeking to suspend legal proceedings against detainees at the naval facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The motion asks for 120 days in order to give the administration "time to review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently before military commissions, specifically."

A judge in one of the war crimes cases, Army Col. Stephen Henley, issued a ruling Wednesday agreeing to suspend the proceedings at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, pending the 120-day review.

According to the motion filed at the request of President Obama, the 120-day suspension of proceedings will provide the administration "time to conduct a review of detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to evaluate the cases of detainees not approved for release or transfer to determine whether prosecution may be warranted for any offenses those detainees may have committed, and to determine which forum best suits any future prosecution."

The review is seen as a major first step toward Obama's promise of ultimately closing the controversial detention facility opened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also could mean the end of the Military Commissions Act.

The move was hailed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations that have criticized the legal processes at Guantanamo as unconstitutional.

"On Day One, President Obama kept his promise to halt the unconstitutional military commissions by ordering the prosecution to seek a 120-day suspension," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Had the proceedings continued, the Bush administration would have permanently tied his hands and stopped him from being able to fulfill a top level campaign promise. Within the next 120 days, we trust that the President's team will be studying and finalizing plans and a timeline for permanently closing Guantanamo, shuttering the military commissions and ensuring justice is served in the best of American traditions. President Obama's 'time out' comes at the perfect time in these shameful military commissions and shows he means business on Day One. President Obama has to restore an America we can be proud of again by once and for all shutting down Guantanamo and its shameful military commissions."


U.S. v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al., Request For 120-Day Continuance In The Interest Of Justice, Jan. 20, 2009

Washington Post, Obama Seeks Halt to Legal Proceedings at Guantanamo, by Peter Finn, Jan. 21, 2009

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