Obama Urged to Veto Defense Authorization Bill over 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 passed in the Senate today and will now head to President Obama’s desk for his signature or veto.
“President Obama has repeatedly stated that he intends to close Guantanamo Bay but, frankly, time is running out,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “This may be the president’s last chance to take action on Guantanamo. If the president is serious about shuttering the facility he will veto this bill. Otherwise Guantanamo will forever be a 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 said that the president would veto the bill if it did not include a pathway to closing the facility.
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-four of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 47 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. Military leaders and national security experts continue to call for Guantanamo to be closed because rather than keeping us safer, Guantanamo undermines our national security.
“It has been nearly seven years since the president signed the executive order to close Guantanamo,” noted Wala. “The ball is now in his court. Only by vetoing this bill can Obama ensure that there is still a pathway to closing Guantanamo.”
Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo.