Congress Should Reject Effort to Send More Detainees to Guantanamo
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged members of Congress to reject legislation that expresses the sense of Congress that the Obama Administration should detain captured Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The organization notes that such legislation goes against the national security interest of closing the detention facility by the end of President Obama’s second term in office.
“Countless retired generals, admirals, national security, and intelligence experts have spoken out against the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, noting that its continued operation makes Americans less safe. Guantanamo is a propaganda boon to our enemies and makes cooperation with our allies more difficult,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Any attempt to send additional detainees to the base undercuts our ability to close this dark chapter in our nation’s history.”
Today’s legislation, introduced by Representative Jackie Walorski (R-IN), complements similar legislation introduced in the Senate last week. The legislation comes just weeks after the Pentagon released a plan to Congress detailing how the administration intends to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The administration’s plan includes the accelerated transfer of detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Period Review Board (PRB) hearings, of those remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. The remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term—a number not to exceed 60, according to the plan—will be relocated to one of thirteen stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This will result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 91 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $4.8 million per detainee. The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.”
Earlier this month, 36 retired generals and admirals of the U.S. Armed Forces sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, urging them to carefully consider the Obama Administration’s plan to close Guantanamo, and to work with the president to shutter the detention facility. “Closing Guantanamo will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do, and we call on you to work together to accomplish it. We take heart that our nation has elected people who will exercise their conscientious judgment, but who will not allow politics to obscure courage,” wrote the generals and admirals.