Obama must ask Brazil for Guantanamo help, say rights groups

June 29, 2015

President Obama must use a White House meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff this week to request formally the resettling of Guantanamo detainees in Brazil, rights groups have said.

The two leaders will meet this week during a rare visit to the US by President Rousseff. In a joint letter sent to the US President this weekend, human rights group Reprieve, Brazilian non-profit Conectas, and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) urged him to ask that Brazil accept prisoners from the US-run military prison. Some 116 men continue to be held there without charge or trial, nearly half of whom have been cleared for release – a process requiring the unanimous agreement of six US federal government agencies. They include Samir Naji Moqbel, a Yemeni man represented by lawyers at Reprieve, who was cleared for release in 2007.

The letter to Mr Obama says: “Guantanamo Bay is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. The Brazilian people and policymakers understand this. Our collective work in Brazil leads us to conclude that Brazil can be a good place to successfully resettle long-term Guantánamo detainees, and that there would be substantial support for Brazil’s taking leadership on this issue. […] President Rousseff’s visit presents the best possible opportunity for you to officially request the Government of Brazil to accept Guantánamo detainees for resettlement.”

The letter concludes “As you said in your State of the Union address, ‘It’s time to finish the job’, and close Guantanamo.”

The call to President Obama follows the resettling of several cleared men to Uruguay in December 2015 – the first Latin American country to accept Guantanamo detainees.

Commenting, Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and an attorney for several Guantanamo detainees, said:

“President Obama has said he wants to close Guantanamo Bay, and the last few months have seen extremely welcome moves by his Administration and other countries to resettle cleared prisoners. But the fact remains that there are still many men locked in Guantanamo without charge or trial, years after they were cleared. This is unjust and unacceptable. Barack Obama must take this crucial opportunity and ask the Brazilian people to help give some of these men back their long-deserved freedom.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160 in the UK or +1 917 855 8064 in the US.

2. The organizations’ joint letter to President Obama can be viewed here.

3. Further information on Reprieve’s work with Guantanamo detainees can be found on the organization’s website.