Posted by CODEPINK Staff
Hearing Before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the
Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights
Statement submitted by CODEPINK: Women For Peace
July 16h, 2013
Our organization, CODEPINK, recently returned from a delegation to Yemen, where we met with many family members who have loved ones in Guantanamo. We also met with government officials, from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Human Rights. We spent time at the National Dialogue Conference with 565 delegates from around the country. Universally, we found that the Yemeni people are upset that Yemeni prisoners, particularly the 56 already cleared for release, have not been sent home.
Most of the Guantanamo detainees (91 out of 166) are from Yemen. President Obama had banned the release of Yemeni prisoners in 2010 after a man trained by militants in Yemen attempted to blow up a U.S.-bound plane in 2009 with a bomb concealed in his underwear.
In his May speech, President Obama announced that he was lifting this self-imposed ban. Congress immediately tried to block the President by passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) on June 14 that prohibits using Defense Department funds to transfer detainees to Yemen for one year. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Indiana), passed 236 to 188. The resolution says: “None of the amounts authorized to be available to the department of defense may be used to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release, during the period beginning on the date of enactment of this act and ending on December 31, 2014, any individual detained at Guantanamo (as such term is defined in section 1033 (f) (2)) to the custody or control of the republic of Yemen or any entity within Yemen.”
We were in Yemen when House Resolution 1960 passed, and we felt the immediate outrage. “This resolution simply tells the Yemeni people—in a very condescending way—that Yemeni life is of no value,” said Nadia Sakaff, a prominent member of the National Dialogue Conference. Thanks to Ms. Sakaff, hundreds of delegates to the National Dialogue Conference signed a letter denouncing the resolution and calling on Congress and the Administration to repatriate the Yemeni prisoners cleared for release.
Fortunately, HR 1960 is not law, since it has not been passed by the Senate and we are thankful that some members of the Senate are trying to ease the way for the President to close the prison. We hope the full Senate will pass the provisions inserted in the 2014 NDAA by the Senate Armed Services Committee that would allow the Pentagon to send detainees to the United States for medical treatment, sustained detention, and prosecution.
We hope that Congress will listen to the growing movement of activists throughout the country who are speaking out on this. Various petitions to the President have gathered more than 400,000 signatures, the most prominent was signed by Lt. Colonel and former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo, Morris Davis.
People have rallied and held vigils in cities and towns, flooded the White House and Southern Command with phone calls and, by the hundreds, fasted in solidarity with the hunger strikers. The faith community has called Guantanamo a deep moral wound, and 38 senior religious leaders sent the President and Congress a letter calling for the closure of Guantanamo.
Most dramatically, several U.S. citizens — among them military veterans — are now deep into open-ended fasts, risking their health and even their lives in their effort to see Guantanamo closed.
If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantanamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country. We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.
The story of Guantánamo remains the shameful case of the U.S. government rounding up nearly 800 men and boys, indiscriminately labeling them “the worst of the worst,” and throwing them into an island prison designed to exist beyond the reaches of the law, where they would have no right to challenge their detention or abuse. The vast majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place. Many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and were fleeing the chaos of war when U.S. forces entered Afghanistan.
The prison at Guantánamo continues to exist in violation of both ethical and legal standards, and at risk to our collective safety. President Obama and Congress risk making Guantánamo and the Bush detention regime permanent features of the U.S. system. .
That’s why we call on the following:
• Congress must work with the administration to charge or release the men detained at Guantánamo. In 2004 and 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners at Guantánamo may challenge their detention in U.S. federal court by means of habeas petitions. Since then, federal judges have ruled in the great majority of cases that the government lacked evidence sufficient to justify the continued detention of the petitioners. Other men at Guantánamo have been cleared for release by the U.S. government’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consists of representatives from every government agency with a stake in the matter, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA. All men ultimately cleared for release by the courts or the government should be immediately repatriated or resettled, and all others should be formally charged and tried in a fair and open proceeding.
• Lift the ban on resettling men into the United States. More than 15 countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, Belgium, Switzerland, Albania, Latvia and Palau, have accepted detainees for resettlement without incident. The U.S. government should also offer a home to men who have won their habeas cases or been cleared for transfer and have no other safe country to go toOffering to resettle such men would also encourage other countries to make similar offers and help shut Guantánamo.
• Fully investigate the deaths of men who died in detention, including the three who died in 2006. Three detained men who were never charged with any crime died at Guantánamo in June 2006. Initially reported as suicides, new evidence from four soldiers stationed at the base has raised serious questions about the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Until now, the Obama administration has not only failed to conduct an independent and thorough investigation of the deaths but has opposed inquiry and review by the courts.
• Take responsibility for the well-being of the men after they are released and compensate those who have been wrongly imprisoned. The U.S. government must not hold men without charge in inhumane conditions for years, subject them to abuse including torture, and then repatriate and resettle them in far corners of the world, leaving their rehabilitation and reintegration to other governments, organizations, and individuals. The government has a responsibility to ensure that the men have adequate support and resources after release.
President Obama himself said that Guantanamo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law. It is high time, over a decade after the 9/11 attacks, for the US to turn the page on this sordid chapter of our history.