Thank you Chairman Hastings and Co-Chairman Cardin for holding this timely and important hearing. The continued operation of the detention facility for enemy combatants at the U.S. Naval Bases at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has contributed to a sharp decline in the United States’ credibility on human rights issues around the world. To hold 385 individuals without charge for an indefinite period of time is contrary to the values that our country was founded upon. The detainees at the Guantanamo detention facility should be processed in the American legal system with the rights that all human beings – guilty or innocent – are entitled.
It is telling that significant numbers of high-ranking Bush Administration officials have announced their opposition to the continued operation of the Guantanamo detention facility. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently called for its closure. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are reportedly in favor of closing the facility. As two of the primary stewards of America’s foreign policy, I am pleased that Secretaries Rice and Gate are being response to the strong opposition to continuing operations at the detention facility. I urge the Bush Administration to acknowledge the overwhelming opposition to the Guantanamo detention facility and to take action to ensure that detainees are guaranteed rights under the law.
I am concerned about the problems the United States has encountered with returning some of the combatants to their home countries. Apparently, U.S. officials have had difficulty in finding countries that would accept some 75 combatants that could be released from Guantanamo. This situation is further evidence that the United States’ foreign policy during the Bush Administration, from the opening of the Guantanamo detention facility to the ongoing conflict in Iraq, has brought us to one of our lowest points as a nation in our relations with our world partners. The United States and its next president will have years of work ahead of them to restore the United States’ reputation as a fair and honest partner on human rights.
I want to thank our witnesses for their testimony, and look forward to our continued work together to promote human rights in the United States, throughout the OSCE Member states, and around the world.