The best way to close Guantánamo, he says, is to file criminal charges against detainees who can be prosecuted and release the rest. "Everyone is looking for a perfect solution to an intractable pair of choices," Mr. Denbeaux says. "There is no magic bullet."
What makes the issue so difficult is trying to maneuver around controversial past US actions at Guantánamo – harsh interrogations and alleged torture, bypassing the Geneva Conventions, use of coerced statements to justify further detention, military commissions with stripped-down due process protections. "Everybody is ... trying to make policy and determine issues out of a half dozen absolutely disgusting aberrations," Denbeaux says. "Somehow we want to both convict these people and separate ourselves from the evil we did to them."
Many human rights advocates and detainee lawyers are urging Obama to turn a new page. "The most expeditious way to close Guantánamo is to announce as a matter of principle that 'charge or release' is going to be the methodology for sorting through these cases," says Shayana Kadidal, managing attorney of the Guantánamo Project at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.
Prosecution may not be possible
Other analysts warn of the potential consequences of trying to force the prosecution of cases built on evidence tainted by coercive interrogations or torture.