Amendment Would Bar Guantanamo Detainees from Legal Counsel

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged representatives to vote against an amendment to the 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations Act by Representative Jason Smith (R-MO) that would prohibit funds being used to provide defense counsel to detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. This amendment, which is likely unconstitutional and violates international law, would effectively bar detainees held at Guantanamo from access to legal counsel in cases before the Guantanamo military commissions.

“Our national security depends on our ability to be confident that we are operating within the rule of law,” said Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn (ret.), a member of a group of over 50 retired generals and admirals that supports closing Guantanamo to protect national security and American values. “Seeking to restrict access to legal counsel for detainees held at Guantanamo is contrary to our values, and plays into the false narrative of our enemies, who seek to portray our counterterrorism efforts as unlawful and unjust.”

Representative Smith’s amendment also raises serious constitutional questions concerning detainees’ rights to counsel and would likely violate international law obligations to provide due process for detainees.

“By restricting access to counsel, this amendment, if it became law, would almost certainly be unconstitutional, and sends the signal that we’re a nation that doesn’t believe in the rule of law at Guantanamo,” said Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at Washington College of Law (WCL).

Jennifer Daskal, also a WCL constitutional law professor said: “This amendment raises serious constitutional questions that would needlessly prompt additional litigation and undermine the rule of law. The House of Representatives should decisively reject this unwise proposal.”


Published on June 11, 2015


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