Dec 12 2003

Senators Urge Decision on Disposition of Guantanamo Detainees

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), today sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking the Secretary to provide specific information about the disposition of detainees being held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay. The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld Secretary Department of Defense 1000 Defense Pentagon Washington, D.C. 20301-1000 Dear Mr. Secretary: As you know, we recently visited Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to get a first-hand look at the situation regarding the confinement of detainees from the conflict in Afghanistan. We commend you on the outstanding efforts taken thus far to treat all individuals detained at Guantanamo humanely and, as appropriate and in accordance with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Third World Geneva Convention of 1949. We are particularly impressed by the professionalism of our military personnel. The treatment of the detainees is not an issue. However, a serious concern arises over the disposition of the detainees – a considerable number of whom have been held for two years. Given this concern, we respectfully ask that you provide explicit information on two critical issues. First, we ask that you advise us as to when you will make a determination on the final disposition of the detainees’ status. Second, we request that you state specifically when you will begin the process pursuant to the Order of the Military Commissions that the President signed in November 2001, and how it will work in practice. Mr. Secretary, our recent visit to see the detainee situation for ourselves provided an enormously useful opportunity to understand the essential work that has been done there, which we have supported. Yet, we firmly believe it is now time to make a decision on how the United States will move forward regarding the detainees, and to take that important next step. A serious process must be established in the very near term either to formally treat and process the detainees as war criminals or to return them to their countries for appropriate judicial action. We look forward to your reply, and thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this important issue. Sincerely, John McCain, United States Senator Lindsey Graham, United States Senator Maria Cantwell, United States Senator ####