Nine steps to close Guantanamo Bay

July 11, 2013

Image of someone drinking water from a bowl

A roadmap for closing Guantanamo Bay has been released today by human rights charity Reprieve, providing President Obama with concrete steps he must take to fulfil his promise of shutting the prison.

‘How to close Gitmo: A Roadmap’ outlines the nine key actions that the US administration must implement – starting immediately – to end the escalating hunger strike and close Guantanamo Bay.

These include appointing a White House official responsible for the prison and charging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to start issuing ‘national security waivers’ for the 86 detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the prison.   The roadmap shows that closing Guantanamo is not as politically or practically challenging as the US administration has claimed and demonstrates that the way to close the prison – as President Obama said he wanted to do in a key policy speech at National Defense University in May – is to prioritise the easier cases while creating systems for those cases thought to be more complex in the longer term.   The steps include:

  • Announce the appointment of a White House official responsible for closing Guantanamo.
  • Ensure that the White House Official and new envoys collaborate closely with all those seeking the closure of Guantanamo.
  • Charge Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to start issuing ‘national security waivers’ for the 86 detainees who have been cleared (some for almost a decade, most by both the Bush and Obama Administrations), beginning immediately with those slated to go to dependable allies (in, for example, Western Europe).
  • Establish, with allies, rehabilitation centers overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in various countries where detainees can and should be returned, where such institutions are necessary.
  • Immediately appoint an independent rapporteur reporting directly to the White House Official charged with resolving detainee complaints.
  • Work with Congressional allies to loosen, and eventually repeal, the restrictions on prisoner transfer contained in the last several National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs). If negotiation fails, veto the NDAA.

The report comes amid enormous pressure on President Obama to resolve the escalating crisis at the prison.

On Monday, in a case brought by Reprieve and co-counsel Jon Eisenberg, a US Federal Judge in Washington, DC, urged President Obama to address the hunger strike. Judge Gladys Kessler said in a ruling that “it is perfectly clear…that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process.” The President, she stated, “has the authority – and power – to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”

The hunger strike began in February 2013. At least 106 men are striking to protest their indefinite detention, and 45 are being force-fed – a practice denounced by the UN and the World Medical Association as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. Over half of Guantánamo’s population has been cleared for release.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director and Guantanamo Attorney, said: “This document shows that there are straightforward, concrete steps that President Obama can take immediately to end the hunger strike and close Guantanamo . There are a series of options and people ready and waiting to do what is best for all the detainees. The administration should start by transferring cleared prisoners, like my clients Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab and Younous Chekkouri, to allied countries where they will not be mistreated, especially in Europe.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1.    For further information, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s Press Office, on: clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk / Donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk / +44(0) 207 553 8161 /8161.

2.    The full road map can be downloaded here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/media/downloads/2013_07_10_PRIV_How_To_Close_GITMO_-_FINAL_w_NS_Edit.pdf

3.    For further information on Judge Kessler’s ruling, please see here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2013_07_09_guantanamo_judge_force_feeding_obama/

4.    On Monday Reprieve released a video featuring Yasiin Bey – formerly known as Mos Def – demonstrating the Standard Operating Procedure used to force-feed prisoners at the US detention camp. The video went viral, netting over two million online views in its first day. Commenting on the video to journalist Carol Rosenberg, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon spokesman for Guantánamo policy, “It doesn’t comport with our procedures.” Yet Col. Breasseale has never witnessed a force-feeding. Journalists have never been allowed to view a force-feeding and news photographers are forbidden from showing a detainees face as a condition of access to Guantanamo Bay. (http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/09/3492529_p2/rappers-graphic-video-puts-spotlight.html). The video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/4hQ5xz_5to4  Sign up to join our press mailing list.