Senate Hearing Should Reject Blanket Ban on Guantanamo Transfers, Examine Cost of Detention Facility
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First has released a new issue brief detailing the exorbitant costs of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The issue brief comes just one day after the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned Ash Carter, nominee for secretary of defense, and as that committee prepares to examine a bill that would severely impact the ability of President Obama to transfer cleared detainees out of the prison.
“As Congress debates this unfortunate and unhelpful proposal, they should also address the truly extreme cost of the facility,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. “At a time when funding for soldiers and veterans and support for military functions are being reduced due to lack of funding, it is irresponsible to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a detention facility and military commission system that run counter to national security and American values.”
Human Rights First notes that the necessary facilities to try and imprison detainees already exist and are already funded in the civilian federal prison and justice systems on U.S. soil. National security leaders agree that the Guantanamo detention center should be closed in the interests of U.S. national security, and the unnecessary costs of keeping it open should compel fiscal conservatives to demand the prison’s closure.
The bill at the center of today’s Senate hearing which was introduced by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) includes a blanket ban on transferring detainees who, at any point, were considered a “medium” or “high” risk threat by the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, regardless of their current threat level. The bill would also ban transfers of detainees to Yemen, and reinstate unwise transfer certification requirements that could prevent the transfer of detainees to any country in which there has been a prior confirmed case of “recidivism.”
Of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, 54 have been cleared by U.S. intelligence and security agencies and should be transferred without delay. The vast majority of the other remaining detainees will face Periodic Review Board hearings — an interagency process currently underway that will assess whether the detainees pose a significant security threat to the United States or should be cleared for transfer.