Late last night, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law with provisions that restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and further impede closure of the prison. Furthermore, nothing was done to correct provisions in last year’s NDAA that further entrench indefinite military detention, unfair trials, and the U.S. government’s “global war” framework, in U.S. law.
The “global war” framework— which holds that the U.S. government is engaged in a global, pervasive, never-ending “war” with al-Qaeda and other vaguely defined groups and individuals—was first articulated by the Bush administration and has been embraced by the Obama administration.
Expressed in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and reaffirmed in the 2012 NDAA, this “global war” doctrine is used to justify everything from killings with drones to detention without charge at Guantanamo to renditions (still happening, according to a Washington Post report) to impunity for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearances.
The message sent is that a government can ignore its human rights obligations and replace them with rules of its own whenever it deems the circumstances warrant it. That’s unacceptable. Human rights must be respected at all times, not only when it’s convenient to do so.
That’s why Amnesty International and over 20 other groups— including the Liberty Coalition and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows—are speaking out in protest on January 11th, the eleventh anniversary of the first “war on terror” detainees being transferred to the Guantanamo prison. (January 11th is also the national release date for the film Zero Dark Thirty, a fictional film criticized by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for sending the wrong message about torture.)
Join us in speaking out for human rights on January 11th:
>On Twitter: use @BarackObama #CloseGitmo #NDAA to send a message to the Obama Administration.
In addition, send an email to the White House, urging President Obama to find a solution for closing Guantanamo and pressing him on the case of Shaker Aamer. Even with the NDAA restrictions on Guantanamo transfers, his case can be resolved today.
Shaker Aamer has been held for over 10 years without charge, he’s cleared for transfer, the British government says he should be free living with his wife and children in London, and the UK appears to meet the transfer requirements in Section 1028 of the 2012 and 2013 NDAAs.
Furthermore, President Obama cannot use the NDAA transfer restrictions as an excuse for keeping Guantanamo open. Under international law, domestic law and politics may not be invoked to justify failure to comply with treaty obligations. International law demands that solutions be found, not excuses.
All detainees must either be charged and fairly tried, or be released to countries that will respect their human rights; indefinite detention and unfair trials must end; no one should be unlawfully killed with a drone or any other weapon; impunity for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearance, must end.
It’s time to drop the “global war” framework and ensure security with human rights.