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U.S. Senate can take steps now to close Guantanamo Bay Prison

Updated: November 14, 2013 6:28PM

The criminal justice system in the United States should set the highest standard of excellence and impartiality, a standard to which all other democracies repair. The current situation in Guantanamo is doing much worse then ruining the reputation of my beloved country; it is ruining its integrity. The time has come for both our Illinois senators to restore American integrity and help close Guantanamo Bay Prison.

I have lived in Illinois for 47 years and raised my family here. I strongly believe in our system of government and believe that when America lives up to our ideals and our rule of law not only does it make the United States the best place to live, but it sets an example for the rest of the world. Prisoners have been held at Guantanamo for more then 10 years. The majority of prisoners currently detained have not been charged with any crime. Not only is the right to a fair trial central to our legal system, but the United states ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR specifically gives the individual the right to a fair trial.

It is true that the Supremacy clause of the U.S. constitution makes the ICCPR the law of the land, but the more important point is how this impacts every one of us. Historically, once rights are eroded, the slope is steep and slippery. The idea that a fair trial is central to all other rights was recognized more the 2000 years ago in the Roman Republic, in the 13th century in the Magna Carta, and again in the U.S. constitution. The denial of a fair trial to anyone today is a threat to all of us in the United States in the future.

Closing Guantanamo Prison can be done safely. There is an effective alternative to Guantanamo that would put us back into compliance with the law, and protect our rights: All detainees should either be released or tried in U.S. Federal court. The Federal courts have been extremely effective when dealing with cases of terrorism. We can absolutely ensure justice for the 9/11 terrorists, and preserve our fundamental rights while following the rule of law. This will help prevent future attacks while showing that our system is strong and that the terrorists cannot force us to give up our rights and our way of life.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, has introduced new and improved provisions for Guantanamo transfers. These provisions will give President Barack Obama increased flexibility to make safe and lawful detainee transfers. The Senate is expected to vote on these changes before Thanksgiving.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin supports the closure of Guantanamo Bay Prison and the new provisions for transfers. Now Illinois Sen. Kirk must do the right thing and commit to voting yes on Senator Levin’s transfer provisions, and restore our American values while ensuring effective treatment and punishment of the charged terrorists. Right now, we all stand in violation of our own standards.

Michael Rothman is a financial consultant in Chicago and a member of Amnesty International since the 1980s.

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