CENTER FOR ETHICS AND THE RULE OF LAW​

Press release: How to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility

On the 20th anniversary of the arrival of detainees at the U.S. prison, Penn’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law releases 13 recommendations on how to shutter the facility

(Philadelphia – January 11, 2022) – The Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), a partner of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, released today a package of policy recommendations focused on shuttering the Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) detention facility.

Timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees to the U.S. prison in Cuba, these recommendations offer a set of actionable steps that Congress and the Biden administration can take to not only close GTMO, but also to repair the damage that continued operation of the detention facility has done to the real and perceived commitment of the United States to rule of law values.

The CERL Working Group that produced these recommendations—and a forthcoming report from which they are drawn—is co-chaired by Claire Finkelstein, a professor of criminal and national security law at the University of Pennsylvania and the faculty director of CERL, and Harvey Rishikof, former convening authority for the commissions and a visiting professor of national security law at Temple University.

“The arrival of the first detainees to Guantánamo on January 11, 2002, ushered in one of the darkest and most ignominious chapters in U.S. history,” said Prof. Finkelstein. “Yet 20 years and roughly eight billion dollars later, we still have not achieved justice for the victims of 9/11, and we have tarnished the moral authority of the nation and distorted the rule of law. The CERL Working Group draws together some of the greatest experts in national security law and the law of armed conflict in the country. Its nuanced recommendations provide a path by which the Biden administration can realize its stated goal of closing the Guantánamo Bay prison and restoring integrity to U.S. detainee treatment and policy.”

The bipartisan working group comprises over 30 national security and counterterrorism experts, retired military officers, lawyers, former Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, psychologists, psychiatrists, academics, ethicists, students, and experts in the law of armed conflict.

“Many good and dedicated legal officers have tried to make GTMO work,” said Mr. Rishikof. “After 20 years, it is time to realize a new approach needs to be taken. Hopefully our recommendations will begin this policy conversation.”

Of the 13 recommendations, nine call for action from the executive branch and four from Congress. See the Working Group’s statement for a full list of recommendations and more about its members.

About the co-chairs

Claire Finkelstein

Claire Finkelstein is the Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), affiliated with the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. @COFinkelstein

Harvey Rishikof

Harvey Rishikof is the former director of military commissions and convening authority at DoD and a visiting professor of national security law at Temple University Beasley School of Law.

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Press release: How to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility