Religious Leaders Call on President to Act Expeditiously on Renewed Commitment to Close Guantanamo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2013

Contact: Samantha Friedman, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, (202) 265-3000 or samantha@rabinowitz-dorf.com

Washington, D.C. – During a press conference earlier this week, President Obama reiterated his belief that the United States needs to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Now, 38 religious leaders are releasing a public letter sent to the President and all members of Congress, describing the desperate situation at Guantanamo and calling on President Obama and Congress to back the President’s words with action by expeditiously moving to close the prison there. Click here for the letter.

In the letter, the coalition of religious leaders tells the President and all members of Congress, “Guantanamo Bay is a place where our government tortured prisoners, and it continues to be a place where many are detained indefinitely without trial. We believe that our government has a moral obligation to close the prison at Guantanamo. We hope that you share this belief and that you will act expeditiously to close Guantanamo.”

The religious leaders issued their letter one week after the release of a comprehensive report by The Constitution Project’s independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon Task Force on Detainee Treatment.  After two years of intensive study, investigation, and deliberation, the Task Force agreed on 21 findings and recommendations.  Among these most notable conclusions were that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture and that our nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.

Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which coordinated the letter, responded to the President’s statement today on Guantanamo, saying, “We appreciate the President reiterating his commitment to closing Guantanamo. We hope that he and his Administration will back that commitment with action by certifying or waiving certification for the transfer of cleared detainees. We also hope that he will lift the blanket ban on transfers to Yemen and assign an individual within his Administration the responsibility of ensuring that Guantanamo is closed.

“The existence of Guantanamo creates a moral crisis for this country. The President needs to back his strong words with action by moving to close this tragic symbol of torture and detention without trial.”

President Obama today said that he continues “to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo” and that “the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al-Qaida core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried — that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”