Obama Vetoes Defense Bill Over Guantanamo Provisions
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First applauds President Obama for vetoing the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over provisions that would have severely hampered his ability to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay during his remaining time in office. The organization urges Congress to work with the administration to craft new provisions that would leave open a path to closure of the facility.
“On day one of his presidency, President Obama promised that he would close Guantanamo,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Today’s veto is an important step toward that goal, but there is still much to be done. Congress and the administration need to create a workable path toward closing Guantanamo as they finalize the defense bill.”
The provisions contained in the NDAA would have extended the absolute ban on transfers from Guantanamo to the United States—even for trial—until December 31, 2016. They also included unprecedented transfer bans to certain countries and reinstated a modified version of the old onerous overseas transfer certification requirements that made it difficult for the president to transfer anyone out of the facility, even those unanimously cleared by all relevant national security and intelligence agencies.
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.
“After years of fits and starts of progress on Guantanamo, the Obama Administration has finally signaled that it is willing to make closing the facility a priority,” noted Wala. “With the veto of the defense bill, the administration and Congress have an important opportunity to negotiate a path forward to close Guantanamo.”