Tags: holder | gitmo | challenge

AG Holder: Gitmo Terrorists My Biggest Challenge

Thursday, 16 Apr 2009 08:26 AM

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NEW YORK – Closing the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center and deciding the fate of its detainees is his most "daunting challenge," US Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

About 240 detainees remain at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, some of them been held without charge for more than seven years.

President Barack Obama has ordered the case of each detainee reviewed, and has vowed to close the camp by January 2010.

"There are some detainees who we will likely conclude no longer pose a threat to the United States and can be released or transferred to the custody of other countries," Holder said in a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point.

Others would likely be prosecuted in federal court, Holder said in a transcript of the speech released to reporters.

"But a third category poses a harder question - much harder," he said.

"If a detainee is too dangerous to release, yet there are insurmountable obstacles to prosecuting him in federal court, what shall we do?"

The task "is indisputably the most daunting challenge I face as attorney general," Holder said, adding that "some of the brightest minds" in the country are reviewing the cases.

Holder vowed that "the ultimate solution will be one that is grounded in our Constitution, based on congressional enactments, in compliance with international laws of war and consistent with the rule of law."

His comments were a nod to widespread allegations of abuse and even torture at Guantanamo and CIA secret prisons overseas. Obama has also banned the use of torture and committed to close all CIA detention facilities.

A confidential 2007 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) leaked earlier this month found that medical officers monitored and sometimes participated in waterboarding terror suspects at CIA sites.

"We will not sacrifice our values or trample on our constitution under the false premise that it is the only way to protect our national security," Holder said.

The Guantanamo prison camp was set up as part of former president George W. Bush's "war on terror" to combat Islamist militants following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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