Washington, DC | www.adc.org | February 24, 2016 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomes President Obama’s renewed push to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during his final year as President. Earlier this week, President Obama sent his plan to Congress and stated that he may take executive action to close Guantanamo if Congress fails to approve the plan.
The President’s plan to close Guantanamo is an important first step towards protecting human rights and restoring the integrity of our country in the eyes of the international community. However, the plan will not fully achieve the underlying purpose of ensuring that detainees are afforded constitutional rights. The Plan, as outlined by the President, preserves the military commissions that were created by the Bush Administration.
Detainees held at Guantanamo have been detained there indefinitely without due process, tried by secret military commissions, and have often been subjected to torture. Given the unconstitutionality of the military prison, ADC and a coalition of civil rights organizations have continually called for the President to close Guantanamo. Despite the President’s plan to physically close the prison, indefinite detention and trial by secret military commissions are still unresolved issues, and could remain unresolved even if many of the remaining detainees are transferred to maximum security prisons in the United States.
If detainees are going to be transferred to the U.S., the plan should ensure that they will be tried in federal courts rather than secret military commissions that could use their power to hide evidence of torture. Additionally, cleared detainees must be repatriated or resettled without further delay, and only transferred to countries that are parties to pertinent human rights treaties, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Regardless of the logistics of the plan, the proceedings must be transparent, and the human rights of the detainees must be upheld.
In 2007, ADC joined a coalition of organizations in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of two cases seeking to restore the right of foreign detainees at Guantanamo Bay to petition for appeal their detention. In 2008, the Supreme Court held in Boumediene v. Bush that detainees “may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of Habeas Corpus.The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”
President Obama also rightly repudiated the Bush Administration’s “Torture Memos” two days after taking office in 2008. The Bush Administration utilized the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo as an attempt to circumvent the Constitution, with their lawyers even arguing that “federal laws against torture, assault and maiming would not apply to the overseas interrogation of terror suspects.”