House Committee Blocks Effort to Allow Transfer of Gitmo Detainees

On May 7, the House Armed Service Committee blocked a proposal that would have removed the blanket ban on transferring individuals from the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba into the United States.

Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) sought to amend the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act to eliminate prohibitions on transfers of prisoners to American soil for any purpose, including for trial or emergency medical care, and to remove restrictions on the use of funds to construct or modify facilities in the U.S. to house Guantánamo detainees.

In a letter to committee members supporting the Smith amendment, TCP senior counsel Scott Roehm noted that the federal judicial system has safely and effectively handled nearly 500 terrorism cases since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, while military tribunals at Guantánamo have secured only seven convictions to date, two of which have subsequently been overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and that the current trials of the alleged 9/11 perpetrators are moving at a glacial pace amidst a sea of controversy.

The letter also noted that, according to the SOUTHCOM Commander, the medical issues of the aging detainee population are increasing in scope and complexity, and that the obligation for providing detainees with adequate medical care will become increasingly difficult – and costly – to satisfy without the flexibility to transfer to the U.S. prisoners who present health problems that Guantánamo medical staff is not equipped to handle.

“Guantánamo should be closed responsibly.  Blanket restrictions on U.S. transfers obstruct that process and should be removed,” Roehm wrote.  However, the committee rejected the Smith amendment on a vote of 23 to 38.

TCP’s position on in support of the Smith amendment legislation was based on recommendations and principles of its blue-ribbon, bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment, which a completed a comprehensive analysis last year.




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