Blueprint for the Next President Provides Step-by-Step Guide to Closing Guantanamo
New York, NY – With both parties’ presumptive presidential nominees in agreement about the need to close Guantanamo, a leading human rights group unveiled today a detailed, multi-phased blueprint to get it done within a year.
Human Rights First’s plan—“How to Close Guantanamo: Blueprint for the Next Administration”—offers a step-by-step strategy for closing Guantanamo that minimizes the risk to America’s national security and ensures that detainees suspected of committing crimes against the United States are prosecuted in fair proceedings.
“After seven years of error upon error, the policies underlying the existence of Guantanamo are embedded in law and executive pronouncements. Reversing this will require bold action,” the plan reads.
The blueprint puts forth a series of recommendations in three phases—one month, six months, and twelve months into the next administration—based on Human Rights First’s extensive study of Guantanamo, military commissions and the federal criminal justice system. Human Rights First observers have made 25 trips to Guantanamo and have attended nearly every military commission hearing since the proceedings began in 2004.
Human Rights First recommends that the next president take the following steps during his first month in office:
- Announce his intention to empty the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in one year.
- Direct the Attorney General to review cases for federal court prosecution.
- Direct the Secretary of State to review remaining cases and, on the basis of “individualized risk assessments,” assign cases for transfer to prosecution, repatriation, or resettlement.
- Suspend all pending military commission proceedings and immediately end the flawed Combatant Status Review Tribunals
By the end of his first six months in office, the president should: complete the process of bringing detainees who have committed crimes against the United States to U.S. soil for prosecution; propose legislation to repeal the Military Commissions Act; and direct the Secretary of State to initiate a more systematic program to “manage the risk posed by repatriation and resettlement.”
By the end of its first year in office, the new administration should have initiated federal court prosecutions of detainees suspected of committing crimes against the United States and completed the transfer to prosecution, repatriation and resettlement of the remaining detainees.
“The Administration’s misguided attempt to protect national security by creating a ‘law free zone’ has had the opposite effect, providing America’s enemies with an easy recruiting tool, while discouraging the cooperation of our allies and failing to bring terrorists to justice,” says Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First’s Washington Director. “To restore integrity to the American justice system, and repair our reputation as a nation committed to the rule of law, Guantanamo must be closed.”
The guide to closing Guantanamo comes in the wake of the Hamdan trial—the first military commission trial since the detention facility opened six years ago—which underscored the fundamental flaws in the military commission system, including insufficient discovery, secret testimony, and the introduction of evidence obtained through coercion and abuse.
In May, Human Rights First released “In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Courts,” the most thorough examination to date of international terrorism prosecutions brought in the federal courts. In its examination of more than 120 such cases prosecuted over the past 15 years, the report found federal courts have proven to be highly adaptive and flexible in delivering justice in complex terrorism cases, casting doubt on the necessity of the competing mechanisms proposed to supplant them since 9-11.
“One of the foremost obligations of the Bush administration after September 11 has been to provide a legal process that could bring those implicated in the horrific acts of that day to justice. Prolonged detention, abusive treatment, and military commission procedures at Guantanamo have failed that test,” says Massimino. “Reversing the errors of the Bush administration will require comprehensive policy changes and a major investment of domestic and political capital.”