COPENHAGEN, 29 January 2015 – The leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions has completed a visit to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and today called on OSCE countries to proactively assist the United States in efforts to close it as soon as possible, including through the resettlement of detainees.
“The continued detention of well over 100 people at Guantanamo year after year remains a dark spot on the United States’ reputation in the spheres of human rights and rule of law. While progress has been made in relocating detainees from Guantanamo, much remains to be done. We applaud the commitment of the U.S. government to close the facility, but the United States cannot achieve this alone. It requires the support of all OSCE countries,” said Committee Chair Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal) and Vice-Chair Mehmet Sevki Kulkuloglu (MP, Turkey) in a joint statement.
Santos and Kulkuloglu traveled to Guantanamo on 27 January to tour the facilities and meet with personnel of the Joint Task Force to discuss the status and treatment of remaining detainees. The delegation was not authorized to speak to inmates.
Ahead of their travel to the detention facility, they viewed part of the military commission trial of Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi by closed circuit television from the U.S. army's Fort Meade outside of Washington. The delegation also met with senior officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense in Washington ahead of their visit.
Only a limited number of the remaining 122 detainees at Guantanamo have been charged or are expected to face charges in front of a military commission. Citing the laws of war, the U.S. government asserts that detainees can be held until the end of hostilities.
“The detention of people under the traditional laws of war is not compatible with the modern fight against terrorism. The unfortunate application of this legal theory by the United States means that inmates could be held indefinitely, awaiting the end of a fight that does not have a clear-cut end point,” said Santos and Kulkuloglu.
“Even those who have faced charges in front of military commissions were subject to a changing legal context and serious restrictions related to classified material, all of which raises additional concerns regarding the transparency of the process and detainees’ ability to mount a defense in a fair trial,” the delegation members added.
Following their visit to Guantanamo, Santos and Kulkuloglu met in Washington with Senator Benjamin Cardin, a member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA. They stressed their willingness to work with members of the U.S. Congress and across the OSCE area to support efforts to close the detention facility.
The members of the delegation will present a report outlining the conclusions of their visit at the OSCE PA’s Winter Meeting in Vienna on 19 February.