December 07, 2021

Durbin Delivers Opening Statement in Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Closing the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay

Today is the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay since 2013 - eight years and three administrations ago

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Closing Guantanamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice.”  In his opening statement, Durbin argued that every day that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay remains open, it damages our moral standing and credibility around the world, weakens our national security, and wastes taxpayer dollars.

Key quotes:

“The story of Guantanamo is a story of a nation that lost its way.  It is a story of unspeakable abuse and indefinite detention without charge or trial… And it is a story of justice delayed and denied again and again and again—not only for detainees, but also for the victims of 9/11 and their loved ones.”

“For nearly 20 years—20 years—the detention facility at Guantanamo has defied our constitutional values—and the rule of law.  Today, we live in a world in which the War in Afghanistan, our nation’s longest war, has finally come to a close, and yet Guantanamo remains open.  Thirty-nine detainees remain.  And more than two-thirds of them have never been charged with a crime… how can that possibly be justice?”

“We can and we must do better.  President Biden transferred his first detainee in July.  But at that pace—one detainee every 10 months—there will be dozens of detainees at Guantanamo even if President Biden is elected to a second term.”

“To finally close this facility, we need to take a new approach.  Senator Leahy and I sent a letter to President Biden in April with 22 of our colleagues, including eight members of this Committee, laying out the key steps the administration should take to close the prison.”

“Getting this done will demand strong and effective leadership from the White House—as well as a Special Envoy at the State Department to negotiate transfer agreements for the detainees who are not charged with crimes. And it will demand swift and decisive action from the Justice Department, which has yet to bring its legal positions in line with the President’s goal of closing Guantanamo.”

“The delays in closing this facility are not cheap in terms of our reputation and in terms of our treasury.  Every day Guantanamo remains open damages our moral standing and credibility, weakens our national security, and wastes taxpayer dollars.  How much does Guantanamo cost us? $540 million every year to keep it open… Worse yet, as I mentioned earlier, Guantanamo has failed to deliver justice to the families who deserve it most.”

“It’s time for us to live up to the ideals our troops risk their lives to defend every day.  It’s time, at long last, to set partisanship aside and work together to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.” 

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin has been an advocate in the effort to close Guantanamo Bay for many years.  In 2013, Durbin chaired a hearing to examine the national security, fiscal, and human rights implications of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  In April, Durbin led 23 Senate Democrats in a letter to President Biden expressing their support for finally closing the detention facility.  And in July, Durbin urged Attorney General Garland to ensure that the Department of Justice’s approach to ongoing detention at Guantanamo Bay reflects the values of our nation.

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