Guantánamo 55

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First of all, the NDAA conferees must lift — and not make permanent--the blanket prohibition on detainee transfers to the United States, a ban that applies even to detainees who would be brought to the U.S. mainland for prosecution. Eleven years after 9/11, with the flaws of the Guantánamo justice system now documented in endless books and reports, the categorical rejection of resettlement for detainees within the United States is unfair and unwarranted. It also poses an obstacle to getting other countries to resettle more Guantánamo detainees. Detainees who have been cleared should not be foreclosed from a future in the United States. Resettlement of even a handful of detainees within U.S. borders would provide powerful leverage to secure placements abroad for dozens of others.

This year’s NDAA must also lift impediments to transferring detainees to other countries. While diligent efforts to prevent recidivism are perfectly appropriate, so far the current NDAA conditions on transfer of detainees to suitable other countries appear to have been used primarily as an excuse for inaction. For example, Shaker Aamer has been cleared for transfer to the UK, which appears to meet the transfer requirements and wants him released, and yet he remains held -- why? If the current transfer conditions to other countries remain, then the administration must work within them to transfer cleared detainees out.

President Obama must throw his weight and prestige behind renewed efforts to transfer the Guantánamo 55. He should appoint a member of his senior staff to focus on unclogging the pipeline of Guantánamo transfers. The White House has the power and authority to clear hurdles that cut across the Justice Department, Department of State, Pentagon and Intelligence agencies. And it will only happen if the effort gains adequate, sustained attention.

As monumental as it would be, resolving the cases of the Guantánamo 55 would still leave more than 100 men unlawfully detained at Guantánamo. But there is no excuse for not starting somewhere.

Nossel is executive director Amnesty International USA.

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