House Passes Defense Authorization Bill Solidifying Ban on Torture
Washington, D.C. - Today the House of Representatives passed an updated defense authorization bill following President Obama’s veto last month. Human Rights First praises an historic amendment that further reinforces the ban on torture. However, the organization notes that other provisions in the bill will severely hamper President Obama’s ability to close Guantanamo by the end of his term in office.
“The anti-torture provisions in the bill are the culmination of a hard-fought campaign to ensure that cruel and inhuman treatment is never again the official policy of the United States,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Senators McCain and Feinstein showed remarkable leadership in spearheading this amendment, which passed in a bipartisan vote of 78-21—a margin that is almost unheard of in today’s Congress.”
“I strongly support the extension of the provisions of the U.S. Army Field Manual that currently govern the actions of the U.S. military to all U.S. government personnel and contractors. Our Nation has paid a high price in recent decades for the information gained by the use of techniques beyond those in the field manual – and, in my view, that price far outweighed the value of the information gained through the use of techniques beyond those in the manual.”
The amendment, designed to prevent any future administration from authorizing torture and other cruelty that violates domestic or international law, will:
- Restrict the intelligence community—and the CIA in particular—to interrogation methods articulated in the Army Field Manual; and
- Require that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of and access to detainees held in U.S. custody.
Last month President Obama vetoed an earlier version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over language that would make it more difficult to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights First urges the president to present a plan to Congress detailing the steps the administration intends to take to close Guantanamo. The administration should also immediately increase the pace at which cleared detainees are transferred and other detainees are given administrative reviews of their statuses to determine if they can be transferred.
There are 112 detainees at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Military leaders and national security experts agree that the facility harms national security and should be closed. Fifty-two of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 47 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings. Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over three years ago. Detainees who are not cleared for transfer, or who will face prosecution, will likely need to be transferred to the United States in order to close Guantanamo.
“President Obama has said time and time again that he intends to close Guantanamo,” said Wala. “But promising to do something is not the same as committing the resources and political capital necessary to get the job done. If President Obama doesn’t make closing Guantanamo a priority, it’s not going to happen.”
For more information or to speak with Wala, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.