President Doubles Down on Commitment to Close Guantanamo
Washington, DC – During his final White House press conference of 2015, President Obama doubled down on his commitment to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba before the conclusion of his second term. Human Rights First praised the president’s remarks, noting that the facility poses a serious national security threat to the United States and should be shuttered.
“When the president of the United States unequivocally states that ‘Guantanamo continues to be one of the key magnets for jihadi recruitment,’ he’s not picking a political battle. He’s echoing what national security experts have said for years and he’s underscoring the urgency of this problem. Guantanamo threatens U.S. national security and must be closed,” said Human Rights First’s Sharon McBride. “We applaud President Obama’s commitment to closing Guantanamo and we urge him to take concrete steps toward that end. He should immediately present Congress with his plan to close the facility, which would send a clear signal that he intends to make this a national security priority during his final year in office.”
News reports earlier this week said the administration plans to transfer 17 Guantanamo detainees out of the facility by the end of January 2016, a move that would bring the detention facility’s population to 90 and bring it below 100 for the first time since Guantanamo opened in January 2002. Forty-eight of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 46 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) review.
Military leaders and national security experts agree that the facility harms national security and should be closed. Last month 32 of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals urged President Obama to submit a plan to Congress detailing actions the administration will take to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Signatories to the letter are members of a larger group of retired military leaders who have long advocated for closing Guantanamo. Many of them stood behind President Obama on his second day in office in 2009 as he signed the executive order to close Guantanamo within one year.
Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over 3 years ago. Detainees who are not cleared for transfer, or who will face prosecution, will likely need to be transferred to the United States in order to close Guantanamo.
In a recent Human Rights First poll conducted by Harris Interactive, two-thirds of Americans agreed that detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be sent to countries that have agreed to take them. The majority of Americans also agreed that the U.S. government can fight terrorism effectively without the Guantanamo detention center.