For Immediate Release: February 29, 2012
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First welcomes President Obama’s Policy Directive implementing certain detention provisions of the 2012 defense bill signed into law on New Year’s Eve. The directive issued on Tuesday night attempts to limit the far-reaching aspects of the bill’s provisions mandating military custody for terrorism suspects.
“The extensive waivers in this directive–and the rationale the administration sets out for them–underscore the very real risks of over-militarizing counterterrorism efforts. There are many situations in which it would undermine national security to force terrorism suspects into military custody,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “That is why so many of our nation’s foremost national security experts opposed these provisions in the defense bill and urged the President to veto it.”
Though the directive is a step in the right direction, the administration can do more to ensure that the defense authorization bill is implemented consistent with sound national security policy and the rule of law. One provision of the bill calls on the Obama administration to provide lawyers and a hearing presided over by a military judge to detainees held at the Bagram internment facility in Afghanistan, but leaves the administration room to decide which detainees receive this added layer of due process.
“In order to ensure a lawful and successful transfer of authority to the Afghans, the Obama administration should ensure that all detainees held at Bagram get the additional due process protections contemplated by the defense authorization bill,” said Wala.
Though the defense authorization bill contains Guantanamo transfer restrictions limiting the ability to transfer some detainees, it also provides added flexibility to transfer certain cleared Guantanamo detainees. Prior versions of Guantanamo transfer restrictions had effectively prevented the Obama administration from transferring cleared detainees.
“It’s been over three years since the President promised to close Guantanamo and more than half the detainees there have been cleared for release,” said Wala. “The Obama administration should act promptly to transfer those detainees that have been found not to pose a threat to the United States.”