May 9, 2006 – President Bush made headlines across the nation yesterday for telling a German public-television station that he would like to see the US-military-run prison camp at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba shut down. "I would like to close the camp and put the prisoners on trial," Bush said on the program, which aired Sunday night.
The response from human rights groups was swift. "Make it happen," Amnesty International said to Bush in a press statement. Amnesty has been calling for the closure of the GuantÃ¡namo facility since last year. The Bush administration has repeatedly defended its prerogative to indefinitely hold the hundreds of detainees languishing at GuantÃ¡namo with limited access to lawyers or the US legal system.
Bush implied he was waiting for a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the controversial military tribunals designed by his administration to try the prisoners. The administration has chosen only a handful of the prisoners for trial by tribunal; the rest have not been formally charged with any crimes. "Our top court must still rule on whether they should go before a civil or military court," Bush told the interviewer.
Human rights groups have harshly criticized the tribunals for lacking many of the defendant protections enshrined in the USâ€™s civilian court system. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on a case challenging the tribunals
"The president does not need the Supreme Court's authorization to close down GuantÃ¡namo or to give the detainees held there a fair trial," Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "President Bush has had four years to do so. He should act immediately and stop making excuses for continuing to violate the Constitution by holding hundreds of men without charges."