By Human Rights First’s Sharon Kelly, cross-posted from Huffington Post:
Yesterday, a heated debate took place on the Senate floor over an amendment proposed by Senator Lindsey Graham that would have prevented the 9/11 defendants from facing justice in U.S. federal courts. It did not pass. In a major victory for our campaign to close Guantanamo (link) the Senate rejected this attempt to derail Guantanamo’s closure and prevent the United States from rebuilding our reputation.
The voices of dozens of retired military leaders, experienced prosecutors, correctional officers, and committed activists who all want to see Guantanamo swiftly closed – and understand that our institutions are up to the job of dealing with terrorist suspects — is starting to break through and be heard by Congress. As we await the announcement of President Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo, we can be hopeful that the tide of fear-mongering that has muddied this debate is being to ebb.
Victories like this take work. Last night on the Senate floor, Senator Patrick Leahy pointed to the bipartisan declaration signed by 120 prominent Americans including former Members of Congress, high-ranking military officials and judges, that Human Rights First partnered with the Constitution Project to organize. As today’s Wall Street Journal noted, “Hours after the petition’s release, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have barred prosecuting Guantanamo inmates in federal court.”
Also yesterday, Human Rights First travelled to Michigan where a debate has been underway over whether Guantanamo detainees will be sent to the Standish prison facility. Two retired military leaders who travelled there with us had their message of support for closing Guantanamo appear in an op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press. Most importantly, this victory took the help of people all across the country. Within hours of sounding the alarm, thousands took action, sending messages to their Senators letting them know that they opposed this destructive amendment.