On 15th Guantanamo Anniversary, Obama Should Transfer Cleared Detainees
Washington, D.C.—Fifteen years ago today, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba received its first twenty prisoners in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11. As President Obama prepares to leave office, Human Rights First urges him to transfer the remaining cleared detainees over the next few days.
“History will judge President Obama’s inability to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “But for the dozens of men who have been unanimously cleared by national security agencies and are still languishing in detention, the president can and should move forward with their transfers.”
On his second full day in office, President Obama gathered a group of retired generals and admirals in the Oval Office to witness his executive order to close Guantanamo. While the president has failed to shutter the facility, the number of detainees has dwindled from 237 to 55. National security leaders and former government officials—including president George W. Bush, and other officials who helped set up the detention center—have supported closing Guantanamo because they’ve determined that it’s operation is contrary to the national interest. Human Rights First urges President-elect Trump to continue efforts to close the facility.
Last 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 Periodic Review Board (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 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 55 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, more than $7 million per detainee. Nineteen detainees 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.