• Press Release

President Obama’s Last Chance to Close Guantánamo

January 8, 2016

MEDIA CONTACT: Mandy Simon, [email protected]

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, the Guantánamo Bay detention site entered its 15th year in operation with 104 prisoners remaining behind its walls. In response, Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA's Security and Human Rights program, issued the following statement:

"As Guantánamo enters its fifteenth year of operation, there is a real risk it is becoming a permanent offshore prison for an endless global war. The longer Guantánamo stays open, the more likely it is to become a fixture of U.S. counterterrorism—and a permanent system of American injustice.

"Guantánamo remains open because politicians are exploiting the public’s genuine fear of terror attacks. Instead of identifying effective measures to prevent attacks that are consistent with the government’s obligations under international law, members of Congress are busy playing politics with the lives of dozens of men who could die behind bars without ever facing a trial.

“President Obama signed an executive order during his first days in office ordering the closure of Guantánamo within a year. That order is nearly seven years old. Now, in his final year in office, President Obama will have to act decisively to ensure all detainees are either charged or released.

"The population at Guantánamo can be substantially reduced by transferring the dozens of detainees who have already been approved for transfer. The Pentagon should have clear orders from the president to expedite transfers.

"Guantánamo has become an international symbol of torture, rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial. Closing Guantánamo doesn't just mean moving prisoners to another detention site and turning out the lights at the prison. It means ending these practices altogether and providing accountability for past abuses.

"President Obama's proposal to relocate some number of detainees for indefinite detention in the U.S. would merely change Guantánamo's zip code. It would also set a dangerous precedent that could be exploited by future administrations. President Obama must end, not relocate, indefinite detention without charge.

"Detainees who cannot be transferred should be charged in federal court or released. The Justice Department should stop erecting barriers by opposing the habeas petitions of individuals whom it does not intend to prosecute. Additionally, the Justice Department should commit to reopening and expanding investigations into torture and other human rights violations suffered by detainees and prosecuting those responsible.

"President Obama has just one year left in office to make good on his commitment to close Guantánamo. His human rights legacy, and that of the nation, are on the line. It won't be easy, but President Obama can and must come through."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.