After President Obama committed once again to closing Guantánamo in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, the Department of Defense today announced the transfer of 10 additional men from the prison, lowering the number of detainees held there to 93. In response, Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, issued the following statement:
“Today’s transfer is a milestone, it’s the largest detainee transfer since 2009 and the first time Guantánamo’s population has dipped below 100 since 2002. In one day President Obama has decreased Guantánamo’s population by nearly 10 percent; he has momentum to finally shutter this prison.
“For years, Congress has tried to exploit the public’s fear of terrorism to justify keeping Guantánamo open, even as nearly half of the individuals there have been cleared for transfer by top national security agencies. With today’s transfers, however, the president has shown he will not be stymied by Congress when it comes to removing the ugly brand of Guantánamo from the nation’s human rights record.
“Now that the Guantánamo population is below 100 for the first time in its history, the momentum to finally close Guantánamo has never been stronger. That momentum can’t be lost. It’s time for Congress to stop standing in the way and stop playing political games with the lives of the men who remain there. All detainees should either be tried in federal court or released.
“Additionally, the government should commit to reopening and expanding investigations into torture and other human rights violations suffered by the detainees, and prosecuting those responsible where there is sufficient evidence.”