Former U.S. secretary of state calls for closure of Guantanamo prison
Former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell has called for the closure of the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. media reported Monday.
"Essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like a military commission," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Powell said he would close down the military prison for enemy combatants "this afternoon" because it has become a major problem in "the way the world perceives America."
The former secretary of state said he would not release the detainees, but "would simply move them to the United States and put them into our more federal legal system."
He said he saw no problem in detainees having the right of habeas corpus and getting their own lawyers. "Isn't that what our system is all about?"
Powell was the only member of President George W. Bush's first-term "war cabinet" who argued against the detainee policies. Those policies said the United States was not obligated to abide by the Geneva Convention in its treatment of enemy combatants.
Opened in late 2001 for suspected terrorists apprehended in Afghanistan, Guantanamo now has about 385 prisoners. They have no right to file habeas corpus petitions under a law signed last year, but they have their status reviewed annually by a military panel.
Last week, two military judges ruled that the first trials of Guantanamo detainees by military panels could not proceed because the detainees had not been classified as unlawful enemy combatants. The Defense Department is appealing the ruling.
Powell's view comes close to that of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. In March, Gates said that there was a "taint" about Guantanamo and that the military prison should be closed.
Powell served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993 and as state of secretary between 2001 and 2005.
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