Reported congressional changes to a defense authorization bill, aimed at averting a
presidential veto, fail to address fundamental flaws in the billâ€™s proposed treatment of terrorism suspects held by the US, Human Rights Watch said today. President Barack Obama had previously threatened to veto the bill, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), over detainee provisions, and he should hold firm on that promise, Human Rights Watch said.
â€œThe latest version of the defense authorization bill does nothing to address the billâ€™s core problems â€“ legislated indefinite detention without charge and the militarization of law enforcement,â€ said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch, â€œWith these fundamental problems remaining, the administration should make good on its veto threat.â€
The NDAA authorizes, but is not essential to, funding for most Defense Department operations.Â The House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA on May 29, 2011, and the Senate passed its version on December 1, 2011. Both chambers of Congress met this week to try to reconcile differences between the bills. The version they produced â€“ the conference report â€“ reportedly largely adopts the Senate version of the bill with only minor changes. It continues to authorize indefinite detention without charge for certain terrorism suspects and mandates military detention for a subset of terrorism suspects. It provides that the president can waive mandatory military custody only if he determines doing so is in the national security interest of the United States.
The new bill also adopts from the House version a bar to the transfer of detainees currently held at Guantanamointo the US for any reason, including for trial. In the last 10 years over 400 people have been prosecuted in US federal courts for terrorism related offenses. Meanwhile in Guantanamo military commissions during that same period, only six cases have been prosecuted.
The bill also further extends restrictions, imposed last year, on the transfer of detainees out of Guantanamoto their home countries or to third countries based solely on the alleged conduct of other former detainees. Since similar restrictions were enacted the administration has not transferred a single detainee out of Guantanamo, even though it had previously cleared them for release.
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