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Rights Group Calls for Concrete Steps to Close GITMO Ahead of Presidential Speech

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press@ccrjustice.org

May 22, 2013, New York – In advance of President Obama’s scheduled speech this Thursday on his administration’s counterterrorism policy, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement: 

As President Obama addresses the nation on his efforts to fulfill the promise he made to the American people and the world four years ago to close the infamous prison at Guantanamo, the Center for Constitutional Rights welcomes the president’s recommitment to closing the prison, but the time for laudable statements is long past. As most of the 166 men at Guantanamo continue into the third month of a hunger strike, with at least 30 men now being forcibly fed with tubes and restraints, he must take immediate action. The lives of men depend on it. 
 
But in the same breath as President Obama speaks of closing Guantanamo, his administration has escalated another policy – of killing, not detaining, individuals suspected of terrorism. That policy has left thousands dead and injured under the orders of this Administration, which has yet – at a minimum – to be clear about who has been killed, why, where, and on the basis of what legal criteria, or allow any real accountability. 
 
With respect to Guantanamo, we urge the President to take the following steps without further delay:
 
Resume transfers, beginning with the 86 men cleared for release.  The majority of the 166 men who remain at Guantánamo, including CCR clients Djamel Ameziane of Algeria, and Khaled Othman and Mohammed Al-Hamiri of Yemen, have been cleared for transfer by the Obama Administration for years.  As Senator Carl Levin recently pointed out in a letter to President Obama, the national security waiver contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides a “clear route” for transfers to occur.
 
Lift the Administration’s self-imposed blanket ban on repatriations to Yemen.  Of the 166 men who remain, 89 are from Yemen. More than half of those men – 56 – have been approved for transfer by the Obama Administration. The moratorium is collective punishment, a violation of the fundamental principle of non-discrimination. President Obama can and must unilaterally lift his self-imposed ban. 
 
Reappoint a senior White House official to spearhead the effort for closure. President Obama’s efforts for closure need to be led by an official with the stature and authority to see to it that the President does not fail a second time to keep his promise to close Guantanamo. Such authority must include the power to resolve interagency disputes concerning detainees. 
 
Order the Secretary of Defense to bring conditions at Guantánamo into compliance with Common Article 3. For over a month, many of the men at Guantanamo have been held in conditions of 22- to 24-hour solitary confinement. Men have also been subjected to invasive, degrading physical searches of their private areas. These tactics are a departure from conditions that have existed at the prison for years as a result of a review ordered by President Obama in 2009 to ensure compliance with the humane treatment requirement of the Geneva Conventions.  Current conditions in the camps raise serious questions about the United States’ compliance with the Conventions.  The President should order the Defense Secretary to take immediate steps to end the prolonged solitary confinement of detainees, cease the humiliating body searches, and take all other necessary steps to ensure that detainees are treated humanely. Ultimately, however, the continued indefinite detention of men without charge will continue to impact the ability of the United States to comply with Common Article 3, as the 2009 review itself found. The solution, therefore, must be to begin transferring these men immediately.
 
Transfer individuals who are being held without charge, whom the Administration does not intend to prosecute.  There are currently 46 individuals whom the Administration has stated it does not intend to charge, but are “too dangerous to release.” But under the laws of war, civilians captured during the course of an armed conflict can only be held for so long as they pose an imperative security threat. Otherwise, they must be charged or released. The Administration’s middle ground has no support in international law. The Administration must fairly try or release the individuals it does not plan to charge. 
 
Periodic Review Boards must afford meaningful review.  In 2011, the President issued an Executive Order providing for the administrative review within one year of men whom the Administration has deemed “too dangerous for release” or slated for prosecution. Two years later, such reviews have yet to begin. If the review boards are to be convened, they should begin immediately. And if they are to have any credibility, private counsel must at a minimum be allowed to appear with the detainee before the review board and have access to all the government information being used to assess the individual’s detention status; information obtained through torture must be excluded; and the boards must have the power to effect immediate release.
 
 
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last 11 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.
 
CCR, together with the ACLU, is challenging the legality of the drone strikes that killed three American citizens, including 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, in Yemen in September and October 2011. More information is at: and http://ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings and www.aclu.org/targetedkilling 
 
Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.
 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.