For Immediate Release: January 7, 2011
Washington, DC – Today, President Obama signed into law restrictions on the prosecution and transfer, resettlement and repatriation of Guantanamo detainees passed by Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino issued the following statement:
“This legislation is unwise, unnecessary and, arguably, unconstitutional. With it, Congress has obstructed the ability of the administration to bring to justice individuals suspected of having committed serious crimes against the United States, including the alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. Federal courts have successfully tried—and convicted—more than 400 people accused of terrorist crimes. In contrast, the military commissions favored by supporters of the legislation signed into law today have been an utter failure. These discredited tribunals do not live up to American standards of due process and have been ineffective in delivering justice. In addition to blocking trials, the legislation will halt the repatriation of people who have been cleared for release, leaving 60 detainees stuck at Guantanamo at taxpayer expense without cause, perpetuating a situation that makes Americans less safe. It is time for lawmakers to stop trying to score political points at the expense of smart national security policy.
“President Obama is absolutely correct that, ‘The prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation,’ and we welcome his commitment to mitigating the effects of Congress’ shortsighted restriction. If the Obama Administration is serious about delivering on its promises to close Guantanamo and bring terrorism suspects to justice, it should be preparing the ground now—politically and legally—for prosecutions in federal court. And it should be exploring all other avenues for bringing terror suspects to justice, including the possible use of other unrestricted funds.”