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Senator Cardin Briefs European Parliamentarians on U.S. Detainee and Torture Policy Changes

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – Today in Vienna, Austria, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin briefed European parliamentarians on the steps the U.S. is taking to change its detainee policy, including plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Senator Cardin, who is Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, addressed a gathering of parliamentarians from the 56 participating States of the in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly (PA). In addition to detailing the specific policy changes already announced by the Obama Administration, Senator Cardin cited his “hope that these measures will help restore faith in the United States as a friend, ally and leader in the global community. If the United States wants to lead, we must lead by example.” The full text of Senator Cardin’s remarks are below:

Text of statement:

“I have prepared a response to the expected report of Senator Lizin as the Special Representative on Guantanamo Bay. In her absence, allow me to use these remarks as my own report to the Standing Committee and, I hope, the last time we will need to focus on Guantanamo Bay and U.S. detainee policies in the Standing Committee.

I know that there is considerable interest here in the new policies on detainee issues that are being developed by the Obama administration, and I’d like to take a minute to share some information about them.

First and foremost, President Obama has issued an order for the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba to be shut down within one year. During that time:

A review process will determine the proper resolution for the remaining detainees, including both those cleared for release and those who face future prosecution. In the meantime, the President has instituted a 120-day stay on military commission proceedings.

All conditions of confinement everywhere will comply with common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable law. In this context, I’d like to underscore what Attorney General Eric Holder said during his confirmation hearing: “waterboarding is torture.”

I would like to note that at last February’s Winter Meeting, well before the U.S. presidential election, I reported to you that the Congress had already rejected the views of the Bush Administration on interrogation techniques by requiring intelligence agencies to adopt the Army Field Manual on enhanced interrogation techniques.

In addition to the Executive Orders focusing exclusively on Guantanamo, President Obama issued two additional orders addressing detainee and interrogation policy generally:

1. A Special Task Force will consider detainee policy options in going forward and will report to the President within 180 days.

2. Interrogation techniques by all government personnel must be consistent with the Army Field Manual.

3. The International Committee of the Red Cross must be provided access to any detainee the United States might hold in an armed conflict.

4. Common article 3 and the Convention against Torture establish the minimum baseline for the treatment of individuals during interrogation. As that Convention clearly states, torture is prohibited at all times in all places, even during states of war or states of emergency. There are no exceptions or no loopholes, and this is the standard which the United States has agreed to uphold and which we will uphold.

5. President Obama has ordered the CIA to close any detention facilities that it currently operates and prohibits the CIA from operating any such detention facility in the future.

6. Reliance on any legal advice concerning interrogation issued between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009, is prohibited.

I believe these measures will make the United States safer and more secure. As President Obama said in his inaugural address: “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers . . . faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

It is my hope that these measures will help restore faith in the United States as a friend, ally and leader in the global community. If the United States wants to lead, we must lead by example. Finally, all of our countries still have hard work ahead to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens, and it is work we must undertake together if we are to succeed. 

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