Udall Due Process Amendments Would Strengthen Rule of Law, Administration Praised for Stance on Guantanamo
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First praises Senator Mark Udall’s (D-CO) proposed amendments to the 2013 defense authorization bill, Amendments #3115 and #3116, that would repeal mandatory military custody and ban indefinite detention of individuals picked up within the United States. In 2012, senior security officials, including the Secretary of Defense, Director of the FBI, and the White House Senior Counterterrorism Advisor, all said that military detention for terrorism suspects picked up within the United States is not only unnecessary, it is unwise. “Federal and local law enforcement have the ability and authority to detain, interrogate, and prosecute terrorism suspects domestically,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Allowing indefinite military detention of these suspects is a waste of resources that could endanger national security. Senator Udall’s amendments would right that ship.” As Human Rights First has shown, federal courts are more than capable of handling international terrorism cases, completing nearly 500 cases since 9/11. Moreover, a recent GAO report confirmed that U.S.-based facilities are able to house terrorists without creating security problems. Human Rights First added that it appreciates Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) efforts to achieve the same goal through proposed Amendment #3018, but that amendment, however well intentioned, reinforces the false and discriminatory notion that due process protections are only afforded to American citizens – not all – persons within the United States. The constitutional requirements of due process of law apply to all persons within the United States. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that “No person shall be…deprived of…liberty…without due process of law.” “Any approach to dealing with indefinite detention should be consistent with basic constitutional principles, which say that all persons are guaranteed due process,” added Wala, noted that it is currently unclear if the Udall amendments, or the amendment proposed by Feinstein, will receive a vote. Several Amendments to the NDAA also threaten to block the administration’s efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo. The Obama administration, in a Statement of Administration Policy, has threatened to veto any bill that imposes limits on the ability of the administration to flexibly deal with Guantanamo detainees. “The administration is doing the right thing by pushing back on these unjustified Guantanamo transfer restrictions,” said Wala. “If Congress insists on blocking transfers of cleared detainees out of Guantanamo, President Obama should stand ready to veto legislation.” Human Rights First is a leading advocate for detention and prosecution policies in the National Defense Authorization Act that promote security and justice.