News Release ~ 05/23/2013

Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Strongly Urges Follow-Through on Guantanamo Closure

Washington, DC (May 23, 2013) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is optimistic about President Obama’s recommitment to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Guantanamo and indefinite detention are failures on this country’s counterterrorism record and as with all failed policies these must come to an end. NACDL agrees with President Obama that Guantanamo is unnecessary and too costly. It also undermines the rule of law. NACDL will do whatever we can to assist the President in achieving this goal because closing the facility makes sound legal and economic sense.

NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin said: “Guantanamo will not close overnight, but progress requires action, not words. President Obama should begin the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to their home or third party countries. He should see that his orders as Commander-in-Chief are followed, and that Periodic Review Boards are established to review all indefinite detentions. With the help of prominent Members of Congress, the President and Congress can make it happen.”

Since late last year, the President has had the ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo by using a waiver provision granted him by Congress in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. While it is important for the President and Congress to work together on closing Guantanamo, it is also important that the President use all of the tools already at his disposal. NACDL encourages President Obama and Secretary Hagel to work together to get waivers signed and men out of Guantanamo. NACDL also commends the President for reevaluating the situation in Yemen and moving towards sending those men home.

Even as the President spoke today, over 100 men currently detained at Guantanamo are on a life-threatening hunger strike. NACDL remains concerned about the ongoing hunger strike. Working to transfer men who have already been cleared by both the Bush and Obama administrations for transfer out of Guantanamo and creating a process for meaningful review of continued detention are steps NACDL believes could be taken to begin to end the strike.

Over the past few weeks several Members of Congress have sent letters to the administration offering their support in closing the detention facility and urging the President to use existing powers to transfer detainees. Those letters are available here: Congressman Adam Smith, Senator Carl Levin, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Congressman James McGovern.  NACDL urges the President to work with these Members to get the job done.

Contact: Ivan J. Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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