House committee rejects a plan to shift detainees to Illinois

The House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved a ban on funding for modification or construction of U.S. facilities to house Guantánamo detainees late Wednesday night as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The administration had asked Congress to approve about $350 million to buy and renovate a nearly empty prison in Thomson, Ill. The White House plan was to empty Guantánamo and transfer its detainees to Illinois — including 48 who would be held without trial as wartime prisoners.

The provision, which bans spending money to build or modify any facility inside the United States to house Guantánamo detainees, would likely block the Obama administration’s plans to use Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson.

The committee also defeated an amendment offered by Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), which would have blocked all transfers of Guantánamo detainees to the U.S., even for purposes of prosecution. The bill also extends the notification period for the White House to inform Congress before any detainee is transferred to the U.S. to 120 days from the previous requirement of 45 days. There also are new restrictions on transfers of Guantánamo detainees to foreign countries, but the full text of those provisions is still not publicly available.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the committee for blocking the funds to construct a U.S. facility that was designated for continuing the Guantánamopolicy of indefinite detention, stating its belief that the remaining Guantánamo detainees should either be prosecuted in federal criminal courts in the U.S. or repatriated or resettled.
 

“We are encouraged that the committee has chosen to reject turning the Thomson prison into a ‘Guantánamo North’ that would institutionalize the Guantánamo policy of indefinite detention. By prohibiting funds for modification or construction of a facility to hold these detainees, the committee has created an obstacle for indefinite detention on U.S. soil. Guantánamo must be closed as soon as possible, but in a manner that complies with the rule of law and does not continue the prison’s most troubling and illegal policies”, said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

 

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