Despite President Obama’s 2009 executive order calling for swift closure of the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and despite the calls of a broad range of religious, civil liberties and national security groups to put that policy into action, the prison remains open, in large part due to stonewalling by members of Congress. The current draft of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 now being considered in Congress again includes provisions that would preclude the prison’s closing. The mistreatment of prisoners, such as indefinite detention, is an affront to human dignity and the Jewish principle that we are all created in the divine image, b’tzelem elohim and therefore worthy of dignity. It is time for Congress to remove these restrictions from the NDAA and to allow the prison at Guantanamo to finally close.
President Obama signed an executive order in 2009 ensuring that the conditions under which prisoners are held in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay abide by the humanitarian requirements of the Geneva Convention and promising to close the prison. In his remarks, the President said he sought to "restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.”
Nearly four years later, 166 people remain imprisoned in Guantanamo and the prospects for their transfer and the prison’s closure remain dim. This is largely due to two provisions that Congress has included in the National Defense Authorization Act over the past several years. The first, known as transfer restrictions, prohibits the government from transferring anyone from Guantanamo to the United States for trial. The second, known as certification requirements, says that any country that the U.S. might wish to transfer a prisoner to for trial must meet very strict requirements, effectively preventing the transfer of prisoners to most countries around the world.
These restrictions have been included in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act now being considered in Congress. If they become law, they would prevent the closure of Guantanamo for yet another year. The NDAA, including these restrictions, passed the House in May. The Senate is debating the bill this week and the current version includes these restrictions. Yet there is still an opportunity to amend and improve the bill, allowing the Guantanamo prison to be closed.
Judaism teaches that every person is created b’tselem elohim, in the image of God, and is thus deserving of dignity. The Guantanamo Bay prison at which prisoners have been held for years without being charged or tried does not reflect principles of human dignity or the highest principles to which the U.S. is committed..
Contact your members of Congress and tell them to support closing Guantanamo Bay Prison in the National Defense Authorization Act. The Capitol Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121 or you can send an e-mail by entering your zip code in the form above.
For more information, please contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Sarah Greenberg at 202.387.2800.