Blueprint Details Recommendations to Close Guantanamo
Washington, D.C. – Today, as the House Armed Services Committee questions Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights First has released a comprehensive blueprint detailing steps the Obama Administration and Congress can take to finally shutter the facility.
“The current debate over the administration’s actions that led to the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl threatens to overshadow the real problem: years after the president promised to close Guantanamo Bay, it is still open,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “The truth is, if Congress and the administration had already closed Guantanamo, we might not be in this current situation at all.”
As major combat operations in Afghanistan draw down, it is essential that the president and Congress work together to close Guantanamo and bring an end to what has become a symbol for an America that flouts the law. Since President Obama’s counterterrorism address in May 2013 in the National Defense University, significant steps have been taken to close the facility. 17 detainees have been transferred to their home countries or third countries since his speech, and the president has appointed special envoys at the State and Defense Departments to lead the effort to close Guantanamo. These efforts have included the cessation of the self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen and a return to the more sensible and fair practice of carefully assessing each transfer determination through the Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings.
Despite these positive developments, the administration still needs to develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with the remaining 149 detainees that remain at Guantanamo Bay. Today’s blueprint provides detailed recommendations for both Congress and President Obama to work toward bringing the number of detainees down to zero. These recommendations include:
- The president should communicate his comprehensive plan for closing Guantanamo to members of Congress, including, as appropriate, the path forward for each of the remaining 149 detainees at Guantanamo.
- The administration should continue efforts to vigorously and visibly urge Congress and the American people to overturn the remaining restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo.
- The president should direct his national security team to publicly defend the transfer of detainees out of Guantanamo as not only consistent with, but also necessary to our national security interests, and outline how any risks associated with transfers will be managed.
- Congress should revise the restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo to permit transfers of detainees to the United States for detention, trial, or medical treatment. No new restrictions on transferring detainees should be added.
- Congressional oversight should focus on facilitating the closure of Guantanamo with a comprehensive plan, and on timely and appropriate executive branch communication with Congress regarding execution of that plan.
- Consistent with the advice of military, counterterrorism, intelligence, penal and law enforcement professionals, Congress should communicate a realistic and non-exaggerated sense of risk regarding transferring detainees out of Guantanamo, and articulate the benefits that would accrue from closing Guantanamo.
“The controversy over the exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl doesn't change the fact that there is a reasonable path to close Guantnamo, and that doing so will help – not harm – our national security,” said Wala.