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US dismisses UK call to close Guantanamo Bay

[JURIST] US officials have dismissed a call [JURIST report] from UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith [official profile] to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] used to detain terror suspects, saying that the US is working to release detainees who no longer pose a threat, but insisting that the prison is a critical part of the war on terror. US State Department Sean McCormack said Wednesday that:

the President has talked about the fact that we'd like nothing better than at some point in the future to close down Guantanamo. Nobody wants to be a jailer for the world. And in fact, we have moved many detainees from Guantanamo back to their home countries or their country of origin, under agreements that would ensure that they're not -- they don't go in the front door and head out the back. And also that they won't be tortured; that they will be treated humanely.

Just the other day, we released several Uighurs; they're now in Albania. So there is a process here for trying to move people through. They do have access to a judicial review, that in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Again, at some point in the future, we'd like nothing better than to close down Guantanamo. But the fact of the matter is that the people there are dangerous people and we don't -- one thing we don't want to do is release people now who might at some point in the future end up on the battlefield facing our troops or somebody's else's troops or committing acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.
In a speech [text] earlier Wednesday, Goldsmith said that Guantanamo should be closed "as a matter of principle."

Australian officials, meanwhile, continue to voice support for Guantanamo Bay. Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official profile] has said that military commissions [JURIST news archive] will be able to produce fair results, but has indicated that some changes should be made to the proceedings. Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] has called for commission proceedings to begin for Australian detainee David Hicks [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. Howard expressed concern that if Hicks is sent to Australia without being tried by a military tribunal at Guantanamo, he cannot be charged by Australian officials, an outcome Howard called unsatisfactory "given the severity of the allegations made against him." Hicks has been held at Guantanamo Bay for four years and is charged [charge sheet, PDF] with aiding the enemy, attempted murder, and conspiracy to attack civilians. He is currently applying for British citizenship [JURIST report] in hopes that the British government will lobby for his release from Guantanamo. Australia's ABC News has more.

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