Ash Carter Should Prioritize Closing Guantanamo as Secretary of Defense
Washington, D.C. –President Obama today nominated Ashton Carter to serve as secretary of defense. Human Rights First urges Carter to prioritize closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by rapidly increasing transfers of detainees cleared for release and completing Periodic Review Board hearings by the end of 2015. President Obama has committed to closing Guantanamo by the end of his second term, and members of Congress should use Carter’s confirmation hearing to question him on the steps he will take to fulfill the president’s obligation.
“From day one Carter will face a full agenda, and will play a pivotal role in overseeing policies with human rights at their core,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “National security experts and President Obama agree that closing Guantanamo should be one of the Pentagon’s top priorities for the next two years; it will be up to Carter to see this across the finish line.”
Today’s news comes as Congress prepares to pass its annual defense budget bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2015 Fiscal Year. The bill, which was voted through the House of Representatives last night, carries restrictions that make it difficult to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights First urges the president to veto the defense budget bill if it continues to restrict the transfer of detainees.
Currently, 142 individuals are detained at Guantanamo. Of those, 73 have been unanimously cleared for transfer by all defense, law enforcement and intelligence agencies—in some cases multiple times, and under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The administration has the authority to transfer these individuals to foreign countries, but current law prohibits their transfer to the United States for any purpose. A provision in Senate Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA would have allowed transfers to the United States in certain circumstances, but it was removed in negotiations with the House.
“It is critical that Carter work within his authority to hasten the transfer of detainees who have been cleared by competent U.S. authorities,” noted Wala.