Senate committee passes bill barring Guantanamo detainee transfers

Senate committee passes bill barring Guantanamo detainee transfers

[JURIST] The Senate Armed Services committee [official website] narrowly advanced a bill [text, PDF] on Thursday that would prevent most detainee transfers out of Guantanamo until after President Barack Obama leaves office. The White House has vowed to veto the legislation. The bill, sponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte [official website] and supported by Senators Graham, Burr and McCain, passed the committee 14-12. Among other things, the proposed legislation prohibits use of funds to modify or construct facilities in the US to house detainees from Guantanamo. The bill also bars transfers to Yemen for the next two years, prohibits the transfer or release of detainees determined to be high-risk or medium-risk threats and repeals current regulations that allow low-risk detainees to be transferred to a third country. Obama pledged to close the facility [Reuters report] when he came into office in 2009, but his efforts have mostly failed due to congressional opposition.

The acceleration of the closure of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] is a part of the administration’s attempt to fulfill campaign promises made by Obama in 2008, despite restrictions in the latest defense spending bill [JURIST report]. In December the Department of Defense announced the repatriation [JURIST report] of four Guantanamo detainees to Afghanistan. Earlier in December the Pentagon announced the transfer [JURIST report] of six detainees to Uruguay. This move was the result of a 2009 Executive Order issued by Obama instructing the Guantanamo Bay Review Force to review these cases. In November five detainees were released [JURIST report] to their respective home countries of Georgia and Slovakia. Also in November the Pentagon announced the the release [JURIST report] of Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda from the detention facilities after nearly 13 years of imprisonment without a trial.