For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Brenda Bowser Soder, Human Rights First

Statement on Reported Plan to Permit Indefinite Detention

WASHINGTON - Tonight, following breaking news that the Obama Administration is considering an Executive Order to permit indefinite detention with mandatory periodic review, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino issued the following statement:

“The overwhelming consensus among U.S. military and national security experts is that Guantanamo is a boon to our enemies.  The administration should focus on driving the number of people held at Guantanamo down to zero.     

“The mess the Obama Administration inherited at Guantanamo poses unique problems and, as such, should be dealt with separately from other decisions about future detention.  In that sense, an Executive Order limited to certain Guantanamo cases, especially one that improves the existing situation by providing legal counsel and additional review, is preferable to a broader legislative scheme for preventive detention.  But preventive detention regimes, whether legislative or administrative, pose a serious threat to fundamental rights and are no substitute for criminal justice. Reliance on indefinite detention as a path of least resistance is part of how we ended up in the Guantanamo mess in the first place. 

“As President Obama made clear in his National Archives speech, federal courts are an essential tool in fighting terrorism.  In January 2009, his administration identified 36 detainees at Guantanamo against whom a criminal case could be brought.  The Administration now owes it to the American people to move forward with seeking indictments in these cases in our proven criminal justice system.  If the Administration is serious about delivering on the President’s promises to close Guantanamo and bring terrorism suspects to justice, it should be preparing the ground—politically and legally —for prosecutions in federal court.

“The administration must push back against attempts by Congress to tie its hands. President Obama must make clear that the government intends to pursue these cases in federal court, has the evidence necessary for indictments, and that efforts to block these trials would be tantamount to obstructing justice and would undermine U.S. national security interests.”


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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.

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