[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] issued an executive order [text, PDF] Thursday directing that the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military prison be closed "as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." The order also instructed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to immediately halt military commission [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] proceedings pending a comprehensive review of all Guantanamo detentions under the supervision of the Attorney General. The instrument stressed the link between closure and review:
Some individuals currently detained at Guantanamo have been there for more than 6 years, and most have been detained for at least 4 years. In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facilities in which they are detained would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice. Merely closing the facilities without promptly determining the appropriate disposition of the individuals detained would not adequately serve those interests. To the extent practicable, the prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals detained at Guantanamo should precede the closure of the detention facilities at Guantanamo.
The order did not specify where detainees would go upon release, but it did call for diplomatic efforts with foreign states in order to facilitate the closure of the facility. Obama also promised conformity with human rights standards in detainee treatment, including Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions [text].
On Tuesday, his first day in office, Obama directed [motion, PDF; JURIST report] military prosecutors to pursue a 120-day continuance in military commission proceedings at Guantanamo against five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators [DOD materials], including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Military judges granted [JURIST report] Obama's motion on Wednesday, suspending the proceedings against the 9/11 co-conspirators and against Canadian detainee Omar Khadr [orders, PDF]. Also Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] ordered a suspension [DOD press release] of all active military commission processes.
6:40 PM ET – In a second executive order [text] on US terrorism detention policy issued Thursday, Obama directed the establishment of a Special Task Force on Detainee Disposition
to conduct a comprehensive review of the lawful options available to the Federal Government with respect to the apprehension, detention, trial, transfer, release, or other disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations, and to identify such options as are consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.
The task force, to the co-chaired by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense, is to report within 180 days, well before the deadline for closing the Guantanamo prison.