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McGovern sends letter to President Obama urging closing of Guantanamo Bay

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Washington, DC, May 16, 2013 | comments
Dear Mr. President, I write to express my strong support for your April 30th statement renewing your commitment to close the detention center at the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba.
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Dear Mr. President,

I write to express my strong support for your April 30th statement renewing your commitment to close the detention center at the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba. I recognize the challenges facing you in closing Guantánamo, but it is necessary in order to restore America's standing as a nation that respects and adheres to the rule of law, including U.S. and international human rights and humanitarian law.

Closing the detention center at Guantánamo, once and for all, will require legislative, administrative, judicial, diplomatic and other measures to prosecute, with full respect for the right to due process, the individuals being held in detention, or to provide for their immediate release or transfer to a third country. I regret that Congress has been part of the problem, not part of the solution, in resolving these matters in an efficient, judicious and secure manner. There are, however, a number of actions that you and the executive branch can take to advance your commitment to close the detention facility, and I encourage you to do so. These include:

  • Appointing someone at the White House to serve as your personal designee and -point person- on Guantánamo, who wakes up every day with the mandate to complete the expeditious transfer of detainees cleared of all charges to other countries, bring to trial those detainees who have been charged with crimes against the United States, and close the detention facility.
  • Transferring the 86 detainees who have been cleared by the U.S. government of all charges and determined not to be a threat to U.S. security to their countries of origin and/or third party countries so that they may be reunited with their families and restored to civilian life.
  • Demanding and ensuring that the practices and procedures for forced feeding used at Guantánamo detention facilities are the same as those used by the federal Bureau of U.S. Prisons, so that they comply with the highest standards of medical ethics and do not constitute any violation regarding the use of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
  • Initiating prosecutions in U.S. federal courts against those detainees charged with crimes against the security of the United States and whose cases are most ready for prosecution and trial, so that examples of rule of law and due process may be established for these detainees in our civilian courts.

I do not make these suggestions lightly; I know that some may be more difficult than others to undertake, including from a political point of view. But they are all doable, and they can all be initiated immediately and completed expeditiously. Some, such as completing the transfer of the 86 detainees cleared of all charges, may require lifting current self-imposed bans on transfers to Yemen; others, such as bringing cases ready for trial to U.S. federal civilian courts may require the use of a national security waiver. These actions are well within the capacity of your office and the offices of the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of State.

I further recommend that attention be given to basic humanitarian issues related to long-term indefinite detention without charge that have disturbed, and sometimes inflamed, U.S. and international opinion about Guantánamo. I strongly encourage you to determine how best the U.S. might provide appropriate reparations and psycho-social support to those 86 detainees in particular who have been cleared of all charges against the United States, and yet were held for more than a decade, isolated from their families and culture, and in a constant state of uncertainty about their future. We have an opportunity not only to set the record straight, but an obligation to establish a high standard for their humane reinsertion back into civilian life and to mitigate any potential negative outcomes related to their release and return to their homelands or third party countries. I have great faith that our U.S. agencies, in consultation and partnership with the countries receiving these detainees, can determine appropriate reparations and reinsertion support, but I would also strongly encourage you to consult directly with the appropriate OAS, U.N., ICRC and non-governmental (NGO) experts on establishing these mechanisms.

Once again, Mr. President, I thank you for your renewed commitment to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Naval Base. If I can be of any help or service in achieving this goal, please do not hesitate to call upon me.


James P. McGovern
Member of Congress

cc: Thomas E. Donilon, National Security Advisor, National Security Council

John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, Department of State

Charles -Chuck- T. Hagel, Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense

Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General, Department of Justice

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