April 5, 2013, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) made the following statement in response to a UN announcement that “The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged all branches of the United States Government to work together to close the Guantanamo detention centre, saying ‘the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention and is in clear breach of international law.’”
The Center for Constitutional Rights applauds the United Nations for speaking out strongly and with urgency on the need for the Obama administration to close Guantanamo and transfer the men who have been languishing or, in the High Commissioner’s words, “festering” there for 11 years in indefinite detention, with all the physical and mental strain that produces. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights speaks with singular authority on matters of international human rights, and this powerful statement demands immediate action from the White House.High Commissioner Navi Pillay condemns the president for repeatedly making the commitment to close Guantanamo yet failing to do so, pointing out that despite the promises, “this systemic abuse of individuals’ human rights continues year after year.”Ms. Pillay raises concerns about the obstacles the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) has created for the closure of the prison camp, but there is no doubt that the president does have the power to transfer men out of Guantanamo under the NDAA’s national security waiver, he just refuses to do so. President Obama must stop blaming Congress and trying to have it both ways by claiming he wants to close Guantanamo but his hands are tied because it is simply not true.The Commissioner also commented on the current hunger strike by the men at Guantanamo, saying that “given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantanamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures.” The current mass hunger strike began on February 6 – almost two months ago today – and the prisoners’ condition is rapidly deteriorating, and many are now being force fed through their noses to keep them alive.
It is time to get serious about closing Guantanamo, Mr. President. The world is watching.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last 11 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.