US senators introduce bill restricting Guantanamo detainee transfers News
US senators introduce bill restricting Guantanamo detainee transfers
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[JURIST] US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) [official website], along with five cosponsors, introduced legislation Thursday that would prohibit funding for civilian trials of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees and place restrictions on the transfer of detainees to foreign countries. The Military Detainee Procedures Improvement Act of 2011 [S 551 materials] would require “greater scrutiny on the security situation and ability of the host country to monitor a detainee” after transfer from Guantanamo. It also purports to “[r]eaffirm[] the President’s authority to detain members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and affiliated terrorist groups based on the authority granted by Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” The legislation would require members of terrorists groups affiliated with al Qaeda and the Taliban [CFR backgrounders] to be held in military custody when captured, would impose restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees to other countries and would require annual review of whether detainees can be released. The bill would also establish “the authority [for the President] to target and take lethal action against individuals” such as Anwar al-Awlaki [NYT profile; JURIST news archive]. Awlaki, a dual US-Yemeni citizen, has been approved for targeting killing by the Obama administration, an action that has been challenged based on Awlaki’s US citizenship [JURIST report]. Explaining the reasons for the bill [press release], McCain said:

This much-needed legislation would improve our current ad hoc military detention system for members of al-Qaeda and their affiliated terrorist groups, by enacting these policies and procedures firmly into law. Our legislation addresses difficult detainee issues, including long-term detention and carefully controlled transfers, emphasizing supervision, security, rehabilitation, and reintegration, so former detainees do not return to the battlefield – as approximately 25 percent of detainees released from Guantanamo have done.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website].

On Monday, President Barack Obama issued an executive order allowing the resumption of military commissions [JURIST report] for Guantanamo detainees. New charges in the military commission system had been suspended since shortly after Obama took office in 2009. Monday’s order also establishes a procedure for establishing a review process for detainees who have not been charged, convicted or designated for transfer. In March 2010, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] urged the administration to abandon military commissions, calling the system “fatally flawed” and beyond hope of reform [JURIST report]. The number of detainees at Guantanamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda [JURIST reports].