I want to thank Senator Cardin and Congressman Hasting, co-chairs of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, for holding today’s critically important hearing. As we all know, sseveral hundred individuals are still being held as enemy combatants by the United States government at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to a Red Cross report, prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been subjected to “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment that is “tantamount to torture.” Among the abuses cited in the report are beatings, extended periods of isolation, sexual humiliation, and prolonged use of “stress positions.”
Guantanamo Bay and the grotesque abuses that have occurred there are not simply a moral stain on our country. More than that, the existence of this prison, which was purposely designed to circumvent public and legal scrutiny into the treatment and trying of detainees, significantly hampers the credibility of our nation as we battle against extremists around the world. It also significantly undermines US human rights leadership, and it provides excuses for even the most grotesque violators of human rights.
I firmly believe that we must make every effort to protect our country from potential threats to our national security. At the same time, we must make sure that we uphold our democratic ideals. It is simply a false choice to choose between security and morality, between safety and legality.
That is why I introduced the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007, which, among other things, would have restored the right of Habeas Corpus to all those held by the United States government, and would have also restored the Geneva Conventions, both of which were stripped from the Military Commissions Act which was shamefully enacted into law this past fall.
But more than just restoring these key rights, we need to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible. I commend Senators Feinstein and Harkin who have both introduced separate legislation that would mandate the closure of Guantanamo bay. These two bills, both of which I have cosponsored, would provide for the transfer of those who are deemed to be dangerous to other legally credible and established facilities for prosecution.
This Administration made an egregious mistake in opening this facility, and compounded that mistake by purposely eschewing long held national law and international treaty obligations to protect the human rights of all individuals. The time has long passed for this facility to be closed and for us to restore the rule of law, and the moral and political credibility of US human rights leadership around the world.
I thank our two co-chairs again for holding this important hearing and I look forward to hearing the views of our distinguished panel of witnesses today.