President Obama defends Guantánamo closure, but endorses indefinite preventive detention

In a major speech on national security on 21 May 2009, US President Barack Obama restated his commitment to closing the Guantánamo detention facility and to ending the use of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved under the previous US administration.

But he also reiterated his decision to pursue trials by military commissions begun by President George W. Bush; stated his opposition to an independent commission of inquiry into human rights violations committed in what the Bush administration dubbed the “war on terror”; and endorsed the global “war” paradigm developed under that administration. Under this global war theory, President Obama pointed to the possibility that the USA would develop a preventive detention regime.

While his speech was littered with references to US values, President Obama did not once expressly mention human rights. Amnesty International deeply regrets that the administration has yet to firmly and expressly embrace the recognition of universal human rights and respect for international human rights law as not only applicable to all counter-terrorism measures and all detainees, but also (as the nations of the world agreed in the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy) as a key element of any effective plan for countering the threat posed by groups such as al-Qa’ida and others like it.