Obama Must Veto Defense Authorization In Order to Close Guantanamo
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today called on President Obama to veto the defense authorization bill over provisions that would make it nearly impossible to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by the end of his second term in office. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 was passed in the House today by a vote of 270-156 and is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate next week.
“After years of dragging his feet on closing Guantanamo, this is a do or die moment for President Obama,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Either the president is serious about shuttering the facility and will veto this bill, or he isn’t and will leave office with this stain on his legacy.”
The provisions contained in the NDAA extend the absolute ban on transfers from Guantanamo to the United States—even for trial—until December 31, 2016. They also include unprecedented transfer bans to certain countries and reinstate a modified version of the old onerous overseas transfer certification requirements that made it extremely difficult for the president to transfer anyone out of the facility, even those unanimously cleared by all relevant national security and intelligence agencies.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has previously said that the president would veto the bill if it did not include a pathway to closing the facility and yesterday he reiterated that if the bill went to the president’s desk in its current form, he would veto it.
There are currently 114 detainees remaining at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, and Shaker Aamer, a British national, is expected to be transferred soon. Fifty-three of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 48 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings.
Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over three years ago. Detainees who are not cleared for transfer, or who will face prosecution in federal courts, will likely need to be transferred to the United States in order to close Guantanamo. The organization notes that prisons in the United States have proven more than capable of securely handling any detainees, including individuals convicted of horrific acts of international terrorism.
“This should be a no-brainer for President Obama,” noted Wala. “Our nation’s top military experts have said repeatedly that Guantanamo Bay harms our national security.”
Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo.