Nonprofits urge ‘No’ vote on defense policy bill over Guantanamo

A group of 14 human rights, civil liberties, national security and religious nonprofits is urging lawmakers to vote against the defense policy bill before them Thursday, because it would keep the Guantanamo Bay military facility open for another year.

“The harmful and unwarranted transfer restrictions in the bill could block the closing off the Guantanamo detention facility and continue the practice of indefinite detention without charge or trial,” the groups wrote in a letter to representatives. “We ask you to vote against final passage of the bill.”

The House is scheduled to vote on the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday.

The White House recently threatened to veto the bill for issues relating to funding allocation but in the past has also threatened a veto over Guantanamo.

The defense policy bill would also keep in place the ban on bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States.

In announcing the final version of the bill on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the ban remains because President Obama did not deliver a plan to house the detainees.

“If the administration complains about the provisions concerning Guantanamo, then it’s their fault because they never came forward with a plan that we could have probably supported,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The bill would also make it slightly more difficult to transfer detainees to foreign countries by requiring Defense Secretary Ash Carter to certify that the transfer is in the interest of national security. It would continue a ban on transfers to Yemen and add bans on transfers to Syria, Libya and Somalia.

“The conference report would impose the most comprehensive set of obstacles to closing Guantanamo that have ever been included in a conference bill,” the nonprofits wrote. “While the conference report does provide for the president to submit a plan to close Guantanamo, the bill’s restrictions effectively thwart closure efforts.” 

The nonprofits that signed the letter are the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Appeal for Justice, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Center for Victims of Torture, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Defending Dissent Foundation, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Security Network and Win Without War.

Tags John McCain National Defense Authorization Act
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