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August 29, 2013

Use of Guantanamo Transfer Authority Encouraging, Should be Followed by Additional Action

Washington, D.C. – Today, in response to news that Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab have been transferred from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Algeria, Human Rights First’s Raha Wala issued the following statement:

“It’s encouraging that the Obama Administration has used its authorities to make progress on transfers out of Guantanamo, even in the face congressional restrictions. However, this must be the first of many steps the administration takes to shutter this facility. The administration should move swiftly to transfer as many of the remaining 84 cleared detainees as possible and Congress should facilitate these transfers by repealing its unwise and burdensome transfer restrictions.  The defense bill passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee is a good step forward toward this end.

“Beyond transfers of those cleared for release, the administration should immediately implement thorough, periodic reviews of detainees who have not been cleared or charged.  The deadline for these reviews was 17 months ago. The Defense Department should make good on its promise to soon commence these proceedings.”

Human Rights First today also reiterated its caution that prior to any transfer, detainees should be afforded a robust process to present claims that they could be mistreated after being transferred.  Consistent with U.S. policy and legal obligations, the United States should seek resettlement in third countries when there are substantial grounds for believing any particular detainees could be tortured or otherwise mistreated if transferred to their home countries.  Human Rights First notes that Algerian detainees have in the past objected to transfers to Algeria for fear that Algerian authorities may torture or otherwise abuse them after transfer.

Last month, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino testified before Congress to detail a plan for closing Guantanamo. That plan included the following steps:

  • The president should designate a senior official in the White House to oversee the interagency operations and congressional relations needed to close Guantanamo.  Public reports suggest that the President has placed Lisa Monaco, his senior counterterrorism advisor, in charge of the White House efforts to close Guantanamo.  If so, the White House should communicate this to the public and Congress to facilitate transparency and accountability for its efforts to close Guantanamo.
  • The president should submit to Congress a comprehensive plan for the intended lawful disposition of each detainee currently held at Guantanamo, building on and updating the 2010 Guantanamo Review Task Force assessment.
  • The White House should vigorously and visibly support the Guantanamo-related provisions in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2014 Fiscal Year. These provisions would provide greater authority to the executive branch to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to the United States for prosecution, incarceration, or medical treatment, and clearer authority to repatriate or resettle detainees cleared for transfer.
  • The president should veto any legislation that restricts his authority to transfer or otherwise effectuate lawful dispositions for detainees held at 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.

To find out more about Human Rights First’s plan, see: Guantanamo: A Comprehensive Exit Strategy To speak with Wala, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3327.