Human Rights First calls for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo as a necessary first step to bring U.S. policy back under the rule of law and to restore the capacity of the United States to lead the world in the protection of human rights and the preservation of human dignity. A broad spectrum of national security policymakers, Members of Congress, and current administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have likewise urged that the prison camp at Guantanamo be closed. Secretary Gates is reported to have argued that the continued detention of prisoners at Guantanamo is undermining the war effort and that the prison should be shut down as soon as possible.
The policy of prolonged detention without charge or trial of individuals at Guantanamo has been a failure. Established as an attempt to insulate U.S. actions from judicial oversight, the prison camp at Guantanamo became a laboratory for a policy of torture and calculated cruelty that did immense damage to the honor and reputation of the United States, and undermined its historic position as a leader in the development of human rights and the laws of war. And military commissions at Guantanamo fall short of U.S. and international fair trial standards and have failed to hold suspected terrorists accountable for what the government has described as the most serious crimes.
Human Rights First supports the following courses of action as alternatives to the policy of detention at Guantanamo:
- Prosecution by United States: Detainees suspected of having committed crimes against the United States should be prosecuted, either in a court martial, a military commission that complies with fair trial requirements, or in a U.S. civilian court.
- Release to home country: Detainees not suspected of having committed crimes against the United States should be released to their home countries, if possible, in accordance with U.S. obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws.
- Release to third country: Where release to the home country is not possible, detainees should be released to a third country in accordance with U.S. obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws.
- Transfer to third country for prosecution: If a detainee is suspected of having committed a crime in his home country or a third country, he may be transferred there for prosecution in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian laws.