5-7-2013By Marc Jayson Climaco
New Media Content Specialist
President Obama responded to the growing alarm over the Gitmo hunger strikes by pledging to explore all administrative and Congressional options to close the facility. But he already has power to take action that he’s not using.
Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino argues in an oped in the New York Daily News that it’s time for action. “Obama doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, wait for the results of any review to act. His immediate leadership could both end the hunger strike and begin to remove the Guantanamo albatross from around the nation’s neck.”
Guantanamo damages U.S. credibility on human rights every day that it remains open. And operating Guantanamo at a cost $150 million per year, more than thirty times the cost of keeping captives on U.S. soil, is financially irresponsible. Last year’s defense authorization bill gives the President power to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo. He should start the process immediately by:
- Direct the Secretary of Defense, in concurrence with the Secretary of State and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, to certify transfers and issue national security waivers to the fullest extent possible consistent with applicable law.
- Redouble efforts to transfer cleared detainees to their home or third countries by fighting and, if necessary, vetoing any legislation that imposes restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to their home countries, third countries, or the United States.
- Reverse the executive branch moratorium on transferring detainees to Yemen. Transfer decisions should be made on an individual basis and only by reference to concrete, reliable, and specific information regarding the threat posed by a detainee. Of the 86 detainees cleared for release, 56 are Yemenis. Obama can work with the Yemeni government, a strong ally in the U.S. fight against al Qaeda affiliates, to provide security assistance that would allow Yemeni detainees to live safely in their own country.
Four years ago, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo. This is a legacy issue. Now that the chorus to close the facility has gained bipartisan steam, it’s time to do it. “History will measure his actions against his words, “ Massimino warns.