Congress Should Reject Guantanamo Transfer Restrictions in 2016 NDAA
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged lawmakers to reject provisions in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would increase onerous and unnecessary requirements on the transfer of cleared detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Proposed language in this year’s bill would reestablish onerous restrictions on the administration before a transfer of detainees could take place.
“National security experts agree that closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay is essential for reestablishing our nation’s commitment to the rule of law and protecting our security,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. “As Congress debates these unnecessary and unwise provisions, President Obama should use his authority to transfer those detainees who have already been cleared by national security and intelligence agencies.”
In 2013, a bipartisan majority in Congress approved more flexible transfer requirements. Since then, the Obama Administration has been able to make significant progress, safely transferring detainees out of the facility. The percentage of Guantanamo “recidivists” has dropped considerably under the Obama Administration—only 5.2 percent of detainees transferred under the Obama Administration are confirmed of reengaging, down from 20.7 percent of those transferred under the Bush Administration. Congress should reject reinstating the old certification requirements.
Current transfer restrictions also prohibit the transfer of detainees to the United States for any reason, including for prosecution. Human Rights First notes that federal courts have completed nearly 500 cases related to international terrorism since 9/11. Of those, at least 67 cases have involved individuals captured overseas, according to Department of Justice data obtained by Human Rights First in a Freedom of Information Act request. Meanwhile, military commissions have completed only eight cases in nearly 13 years, with four of its convictions reversed on appeal.
During the past year, the administration transferred 32 detainees from Guantanamo Bay, marking significant progress towards closing the prison. The vast majority of the remaining detainees who have not been cleared for transfer will face Periodic Review Board hearings. Human Rights First notes that the administration must increase the pace of transfers and these hearings if the prison is to be closed by the end of President Obama’s term in office.
Fifty-seven of the detainees still held at Guantanamo Bay have already been cleared for transfer by all national security and intelligence agencies of the U.S. government and should be transferred without delay.
“Rather than reverse progress that has been made on Guantanamo, Congress should work with President Obama to close the prison by the end of his second term,” noted Eviatar.
For more information or to speak with Eviatar, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.