For Immediate Release: December 15, 2009
(Washington DC December 15, 2009) Ahead of today’s anticipated announcement that the Obama Administration plans to relocate detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois, Human Rights First praised the administration’s commitment to close Guantanamo, but voiced serious concerns about its prospective policies of continued indefinite detention without trial.
“Closing the Guantanamo detention facility is a necessary and important step toward strengthening counterterrorism efforts and rebuilding the reputation of the United States as a nation committed to the rule of law,” stated Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First’s President and CEO. “We are deeply concerned, however, about the persistent implication that a substantial number of Guantanamo prisoners will be held indefinitely, without charge or trial.”
The toxic practice of arbitrary detention and well-documented detainee abuses at the Guantanamo detention facility have undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts and fueled terrorist recruitment. Human Rights First cautions that continuing the practice of indefinite detention without charge or trial at the Thomson facility threatens to sustain the harmful legacy of Guantanamo and undermine U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.
Human Right First has called for federal court trials for those detainees against whom there is admissible evidence of criminal conduct, and has welcomed the announcement that those suspected of planning the attacks on 9/11 will finally face justice in a New York federal courtroom. The organization notes that those detainees who are not tried in federal civilian courts should be repatriated or transferred to third countries and steps should be taken to mitigate any potential security risk the only solution that is in line with the rule of law, the rights of individuals under the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. international treaty obligations. Human Rights First has consistently called on the United States to swiftly end the detention of those who will not be tried or who are found not guilty upon trial.
“We fully support Attorney Generals Holder’s commitment to reducing the number of detainees held without charge, an obligation that the Obama Administration should apply to all detainees, no matter where they are held,” Massimino said.”The compelling reasons the administration chose to close Guantanamo and the lessons our nation learned there must not be forgotten as the Thomson Corrections Center’s doors open.”
Human Rights First today noted that the Thomson Corrections Center’s policies should comply with both domestic and international law. For example, prisoners who the administration continues to assert are held under the laws of war must, in any event, be afforded due process and held under conditions required by that law. Conditions of detention must be commensurate with those required by the “humane treatment” provisions of the Geneva Conventions’ Common Article 3. In addition, provisions of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions applicable to prisoners of war and civilians can provide substantial guidance for detention conditions that can be easily implemented to meet the security interest of the United States.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates the United States’ commitment to close the Guantanamo detention facility and rectify the troubling policies that have made that facility a key recruiting tool for terrorists,” concluded Massimino. “We encourage the Obama Administration to implement detention policies at the Thomson Corrections Facility that reflect our nation’s core values and return to the rule of law.”