For Immediate Release: January 3, 2013
Washington, DC – Human Rights First is disappointed that the President has signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2013 Fiscal Year. The NDAA contains restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of Guantanamo, which make it more difficult to close the detention facility.
“It’s not encouraging that the President continues to be willing to tie his own hands when it comes to closing Guantanamo,” said Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn. ”The injustice of Guantanamo continues to serve as a stain on American global leadership on human rights.”
Though the President has again signed into law the Guantanamo transfer restrictions, the Human Rights First notes that the President can still take many important steps to close Guantanamo within his second-term. The organization has outlined these steps in a new Blueprint on how to close Guantanamo.
As 27 of the nation’s most respected generals and admirals have emphasized, one key step is that the President should place a senior White House official in charge of the efforts to close Guantanamo. Moreover, despite the transfer restrictions, the Obama administration retains sufficient authority to transfer detainees under current law.
“The President needs to act now if he’s going to close Guantanamo within his second-term,” said Osburn. ”It’s time to put a senior White House official in charge and begin transferring cleared detainees.”
On a positive note, the NDAA includes a groundbreaking amendment to end the Department of Defense’s contract with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s primary arms exporter and an enabler of the atrocities in Syria. The amendment – introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in the Senate and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Kay Granger (R-TX) in the House – effectively ceases U.S. financial support of the Assad regime’s largest weapons supplier and adds additional pressure on Russia for operating with impunity in Syria.
“Russia’s support has enabled the crimes of Bashir al- Assad, and cost Syrian lives. It’s time Russia started paying the price for its behavior, and today, Congress agreed,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “This amendment sends a strong signal to all those who enable atrocities and argue it’s just the normal course of business. It is a significant step for strengthening U.S. action to thwart mass atrocities.”