- Country: The United States
- Title: Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
- Education: Brown University, Yale Law School
- Awards: William Rogers Award (2009), Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award (2004)
Michael Herb: Will closing Guantánamo really solve more problems than it is currently creating? Why is it necessary to close a prison that effectively does its job in keeping those who threaten the United States off the battlefield and out of the country?
Doug Bedell: What will moving prisoners actually solve? Are there estimates on the additional costs that will be incurred to transfer and house the prisoners?
Nikhil Jones: What does the planned closing mean for the current detainees at Guantánamo?
A: Closing Guantánamo is not simply about shutting a detention facility. It is about ending the use of long-term detention without trial -- as well as torture and other forms of coercive interrogation. Such abuse has lost the United States the moral high ground in the fight against terrorism. This is dangerous: it discourages the international cooperation that is essential for disrupting clandestine terrorist networks while providing recruiters for al Qaeda and its ilk with a bonanza of material to build rage among the next generation of terrorists.
The current Guantánamo detainees should be prosecuted -- in regular courts, not substandard military commissions -- or released. Of the roughly 240 detainees, even the Bush administration found that some 50 posed no danger; the only sticking point was finding a country to accept them, since they risked torture or worse if returned to their countries of origin. Up to 100 others are Yemenis whom the Bush administration was also negotiating to return to Yemen or neighboring Saudi Arabia if the proper security guarantees could be put in place. The Obama administration is continuing efforts to transfer these detainees.
That leaves some 80 to 100 more difficult cases. Those who actually plotted terrorist activity should be prosecuted in regular federal courts, which have a long history of successfully prosecuting terrorism cases -- far more successful than the compromised military commissions. To convict someone of conspiracy to commit terrorism takes very little: proof of a criminal agreement between two or more people and