Obama can act now to start closing Gitmo

July 24, 2013

Image of prisoners in Guantanamo

Ahead of today’s US Senate hearing on Guantanamo, human rights charity Reprieve has set out the key steps the Obama administration can take now to start closing the prison.

Guantanamo is currently in crisis, with over a quarter of detainees being force-fed daily in a process federal judges have described as ‘degrading’In a roadmap for closing the prison, Reprieve sets out several basic steps that the Administration can – and urgently should – take to resolve the situation and shut Gitmo. Reprieve has also provided the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is conducting the hearing, testimony from the family members of several cleared prisoners who remain in Guantanamo.

Among the key steps the President can take now is to direct the Secretary of Defense to issue ‘national security waivers’ for the 86 detainees who have been cleared, beginning immediately with those slated to go to dependable allies – in, for example, Western Europe. Detainees have told their attorneys at Reprieve that, once they see this starting to happen, they will bring their long-running hunger-strike to an end.

Among US allies which would be willing to accept Guantanamo detainees is the UK.  The country’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has specifically asked President Obama to allow Shaker Aamer, a Londoner, to return home to his wife and four children. Yet, according to the Associated Press, the US Government has said “it has been unable to find stable countries to transfer [cleared prisoners] to.”

Guantanamo Attorney and Reprieve Strategic Director Cori Crider said: “It is increasingly difficult to square the Obama administration’s excuses on Guantanamo with reality.  The situation at the base right now is untenable, and the President’s failure to address the men’s desperation may well taint his legacy. Officials say they can’t find ‘stable countries’ to send detainees home to – does that mean they consider the UK, which has asked repeatedly to have Shaker Aamer back, to be ‘unstable?’  Reprieve has published a roadmap with nine steps the President ought to take tomorrow if he’s serious about closing Gitmo.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Reprieve’s “How to close Gitmo: A roadmap” was published in July this year, and can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/media/downloads/2013_07_10_PRIV_How_To_Close_GITMO_-_FINAL_w_NS_Edit.pdf

3. The Associated Press reported on July 18 that “more than half of the prison’s population has been cleared for release, but the government has said it has been unable to find stable countries to transfer them to.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/us-military-reports-drop-in-numbers-of-hunger-strikers-at-guantanamo-bay/2013/07/18/36f7b9de-efd8-11e2-8c36-0e868255a989_story.html