Obama Urged to Intensify Efforts to Close Guantanamo during Cuba Trip
Washington, D.C.—As President Obama travels to Cuba next week, Human Rights First urges him to intensify efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as its continued operation undermines the United States’ ability to hold perpetrators of foreign human rights abuses accountable.
“Guantanamo Bay is an international symbol of the breakdown of the rule of law and systemic abuse,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. “President Obama will likely raise Cuba’s human rights record when he meets with officials; the continued operation of Guantanamo will make it more difficult for him to have moral leadership on the issue.”
The trip 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.
For more information see Human Rights First’s “Background on Guantanamo Bay.”