The Washington Post

Close Guantánamo for good


The Feb. 17 editorial “How to end the enduring stain that is Guantánamo Bay prison” about the malevolent senselessn­ess of opening Guantánamo, the harm it’s still causing and why it must close, got a lot right. But it was wrong in two key aspects.

First, federal court prosecutio­ns may well have been the “best alternativ­e” to the failed military commission­s in 2009, but not in 2023. Leaving aside the ban on U.S. transfers (which by all accounts is here to stay), starting cases over from scratch in a new forum would not serve the interests of justice.

Former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, whose wife died on 9/11, explained recently that “the only guarantee that federal court prosecutio­n brings is years of appeals resulting from the legal morass of the past two decades. This is no resolution.” Other victim family members have said the same and, like Olson, believe pleas are the only way to salvage whatever justice is left to be had.

Second, President Biden does not need Congress’s help to close Guantánamo. The administra­tion can transfer not only the 18 men cleared for release, but also the three men still in the review board process, all three of whom the CIA tortured. Plea deals in some cases could include serving sentences abroad, as several have previously. If a few men must remain, as long as they are serving criminal sentences (versus indefinite detention), in lawful and humane conditions of confinemen­t, the president could legitimate­ly declare Guantánamo closed.

Scott Roehm, Arlington The writer is Washington director for the Center for Victims of Torture.

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