First Round of Guantanamo Detainee Reviews Completed
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the Obama Administration for completing the initial Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings for each detainee currently held at Guantanamo Bay and urges the administration to increase the pace of subsequent hearings so that all those reviews are completed in a timely fashion.
“The completion of the first round of PRB hearings is an important step toward closing Guantanamo, but more needs to be done to process detainee reviews and move towards shuttering the facility,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala.
The Periodic Review Board today evaluated the case of thirty-one-year-old Guantanamo detainee Hassan bin Attash, who was captured in 2002 at the age of 17 and is an accused member of al Qaeda.
Today’s hearing comes as Congress prepares to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill includes language that would make it nearly impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite the fact that national security leaders from across the political spectrum have urged the president and Congress to make shuttering this facility a top priority. Both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA would extend unnecessary bans on transferring detainees to the United States until after President Obama leaves office. The bills also extend country-specific transfer bans, with the Senate version expanding the number of prohibited locations. Both bills include cumbersome overseas transfer restrictions that make it more difficult, but not impossible, for the administration to transfer detainees.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes the 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 PRB hearings, of the 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 unlikely to exceed 60— would be relocated to one of 13 stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This would result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 61 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $7 million per detainee. Twenty have been unanimously cleared for transfer by six national security and intelligence agencies.
Thirty-six 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.