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CERL Publishes Report Detailing Legal Blueprint to Close Guantánamo Bay

A panel discussion hosted by the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), in partnership with the Annenberg Public Policy Center, launched a new CERL report offering the “unequivocal recommendation” of more than 30 national security experts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and detailing strategies to address obstacles to its shuttering.

The Sept. 12, 2022, event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., came 21 years after the 9/11 attacks that spurred President George Bush’s administration to approve the use of the Cuban naval base to house alleged terrorists captured overseas. The report offered new insights into the state of the facility; the roles that different government bodies can play in its closure; suggestions for the transfer or release of detainees; and ways to repair the damage that the continued operation of the facility and the legacy of the torture committed there has done to the real and perceived commitment of the United States to rule–of-law values at home and abroad.

“The United States cannot move beyond its record of torture without closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” Morton H. Halperin, chair of the executive board of CERL, noted in introductory remarks.

Alberto Mora, former general counsel of the Department of the Navy and a contributing author to the report, added, “The United States made various, very serious legal mistakes in the War on Terror … certainly in the application of cruel treatment of prisoners of war, but also because we damaged the fabric of international law by doing so. Guantánamo represents a continuing violation of the norms of international law, particularly in the degree of due process that is allocated to these detainees.”

CERL Faculty Director and Penn Law professor Claire Finkelstein, co-chair of the Working Group responsible for the report, told the Daily Pennsylvanian, “People think we’re not being fair to the victims [of 9/11], and we’re not giving the families the justice they deserve if we close Guantánamo, but that’s exactly the opposite. The families feel that the commissions system at Guantánamo has been precisely the wrong way to get justice for their loved ones.” In publishing the CERL report, Working Group co-chair Harvey Rishikof said, “It was our intention to provide a path forward so that we can resolve the ‘GTMO Conundrum’ and provide justice and closure for the families who lost so many loved ones.”

Originally convened in June 2021, the CERL Working Group comprises over 30 national security and counterterrorism experts, including GTMO prosecutors and defense lawyers, retired military officers, former Department of Justice officials, psychologists, psychiatrists, academics, ethicists, and experts in the law of war. In January 2022, CERL published a series of 13 recommendations focused on closing Guantánamo (GTMO) that are expanded upon in this report.

Read the full report here and read the Working Group’s 13 recommendations to close GTMO.

View the Sept. 12, 2022, launch event at the National Press Club: