2016 EOM Georgia ISA Tbilisi PC 09102016Ignacio Sanchez Amor (Spain), Chair of the OSCE PA's human rights committeeCOPENHAGEN, 10 January 2017 – On the eve of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility’s 15th anniversary, Spanish parliamentarian Ignacio Sanchez Amor, Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee, reiterated longstanding concerns over the prison and the practice of indefinite detention.

Regretting that President Barack Obama was unable to follow through on his stated commitment to close Guantanamo, Sanchez Amor urged the outgoing administration to continue transferring prisoners who have been cleared for release, and urged the new U.S. administration to bring remaining prisoners to trial and pursue efforts to close the prison.

“Fifteen years ago, the George W. Bush administration made a fateful decision to establish a detention facility for suspected terrorists that would be out of the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and, so President Bush thought, beyond the reach of international law. Since then, it has proved extremely difficult to resolve the dilemma of what to do with these prisoners, many of whom have been denied their legal rights and have suffered physical and psychological abuse,” Sanchez Amor said.

He pointed out that the OSCE PA has adopted five resolutions calling for Guantanamo’s closure, and has visited the prison several times – in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2015. Following the last visit two years ago, the leaders of the OSCE PA’s human rights committee issued a report recommending that the United States, working with other OSCE countries, step up efforts to close the facility. The U.S. government should work to develop a national consensus on achieving this objective, which is in the best interests of the country’s security and international standing, the report concluded.

“Since the first resolution on Guantanamo that the PA adopted at our 2003 Annual Session, our position has been clear: the prison is a stain on the United States’ reputation in the sphere of human rights, and the U.S. government should live up to its commitments to the rule of law by either releasing the prisoners or granting them their right to fair trial,” Sanchez Amor said. “I note with concern that the U.S. government’s Periodic Review Board has designated 26 prisoners as indefinite detainees to be held without charge or trial under the Law of War.”

Sanchez Amor recalled that the prison has been a source of widespread international criticism, including from the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. He further stressed that Guantanamo continues to serve as a potent symbol for terrorist recruitment.

“As President Obama has said, instead of serving as a counter-terrorism tool, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped violent extremists gain new recruits, likely creating more terrorists around the world than it ever detained,” said Sanchez Amor.

He welcomed the fact that the Obama administration continues to release prisoners, including four who were sent to Saudi Arabia last week after being held for more than 14 years. Sanchez Amor further urged OSCE countries to proactively assist the United States in efforts to close the facility, including by receiving and relocating detainees, noting that of the 55 remaining captives, 19 have been approved for transfer or repatriation to their homelands.

Sanchez Amor was elected Chair of the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions at the 25th Annual Session in Tbilisi in July 2016.