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PHR: United States Must Close Guantánamo and End Indefinite Detention

Obama administration must not relocate unlawful detention regime to the United States

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights today urged President Obama to ensure all detainees are safely repatriated, resettled in third countries, or prosecuted in federal courts, in response to the administration’s newly announced plan to close Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility.

“Closing Guantánamo is critically important, but President Obama must take decisive action to also end indefinite detention and other human rights violations of detainees,” said Sarah Dougherty, senior fellow in Physician for Human Rights’ anti-torture program. “What we want is respect for due process and fair trial standards – and that doesn’t happen by simply relocating detainees to U.S. soil. There is a danger that closing Guantánamo will simply relocate the lawlessness of indefinite detention to the United States.”

The prison at Guantánamo – which has been open for 14 years – is a symbol of the U.S. government’s willingness to undermine legal protections for people suspected of crimes related to terrorism. PHR pointed out that President Obama has a final opportunity to make good on his commitment to close this symbol of U.S. torture and exceptionalism.

“Indefinite detention is a form of ill-treatment that inflicts severe mental and physical harm on detainees, as Physicians for Human Rights has documented,” Dougherty said. “The United States must prosecute detainees in federal courts or ensure their prompt release – not continue holding them indefinitely, in violation of U.S. and international law.”

PHR welcomed the administration’s plan to accelerate the review and transfer of Guantánamo detainees and broaden use of federal courts to prosecute those charged with crimes. However, PHR reiterated that prolonged, arbitrary detention violated U.S. obligations under international law and stated that transferring detainees to the United States for further detention would only continue their ill-treatment.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.