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June 14, 2013

Human Rights First Welcomes Debate on Closing Guantanamo

WASHINGTON– Human Rights First welcomed ongoing engagement from Congress on Guantanamo this week during debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House of Representatives.

Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn said, “Momentum is building to close Guantanamo.  The president is reengaged, there is bipartisan support in the Senate for his efforts to shutter the prison, and the House of Representatives is finally trying to tackle this tough issue in a serious way.”

It is reported that the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a 2014 defense bill with provisions that relaxed the restrictions on transfers of detainees from Guantanamo, giving the president greater flexibility in how to deal with the remaining detainees at the prison.  The defense bill will next be debated on the Senate floor as early as July.

The House of Representatives, however, rejected an amendment by Rep. Adam Smith that provided for a comprehensive framework to close Guantanamo.

“The fact that the House is finally debating a comprehensive plan to close Guantanamo is a good opening gambit. The president can transfer many detainees out of Guantanamo without any action from Congress,” said Osburn.  “He needs to begin those transfers immediately as a good faith show of commitment that he intends to take his pledge to close Guantanamo seriously.”

The House of Representatives also failed to adopt the Smith-Gibson amendment, which would have banned indefinite detention of persons apprehended in the United States.  However, the Smith-Gibson amendment received 18 more votes than an identical Smith-Amash amendment from 2011.

“Though the Smith-Gibson amendment failed, I think we’re increasingly seeing support for the idea that it’s totally unacceptable and against American values to hold individuals without charge or trial,” said Osburn.