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"Our goal is to close Guantanamo and end indefinite detention"

The OSCE in a just released report has called on the US to close the Guantanamo prison camp on Cuba. But as a contributor to the report tells DW in an interview, closing Guantanamo alone is not enough.

DW: What is the key recommendation of the Guantanamo report?

Omer Fisher: One of our key recommendations, one we have also made over the past few years, is to close the Guantanamo detention facility. We have now a full analysis of the human rights situation of the detainees there which we think backs this recommendation very strongly. One thing we certainly would not want to see is that the Guantanamo detention facility is closed, but that the detainees still remain in indefinite detention. One of our key recommendations is to end indefinite detention everywhere, so we wouldn't want detainees to be transferred somewhere else from Guantanamo where they still face indefinite detention without trial.

How did you reach this recommendation?

We know that some people have been detained in Guantanamo for many, many years and only a small number of them are facing trials before military commissions in Guantanamo. But many have been there for a very long time and, as anyone under human rights law, they have the right to be charged or released and they cannot remain in detention for indefinite time without either being charged or released. But they can't remain in indefinite detention for so many years.

President Barack Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo since taking office. It hasn't happened so far and now he has about one more year as president. How optimistic are you that Guantanamo will be closed by the time he leaves office?

We are very excited about the ongoing discussion. There has been a renewed call for closing Guantanamo and renewed pledges on the part of the current US administration to close this facility. It is now up to them to make sure that these pledges and this commitment are translated in reality. So I do hope very much that this is going to happen soon.

The US Congress has until now been the biggest obstacle to the closure of the Guantanamo prison. Why do you think Congress will now play a more constructive role in allowing its closure?

This is really a matter of internal political discussions in the US and we take no particular position as to how we reach a stage where the policy of closing Guantanamo comes into practice. In other words, the debate between Congress, the administration and the president are interesting to follow, but are not the key questions for us. The key question for us is the good result of those debates and that result must be the closing of Guantanamo.

Your report not only details recommendations for the United States, but also for other countries. Can you elaborate on those recommendations?

Our recommendations in addition to closing Guantanamo have very much to do with accountability and making sure that justice is served for human rights violations, including torture, that took place in the context of Guantanamo, specifically the rendition program. This rendition program involved a number of OSCE participating states, as is widely known. What we would want to see from them is full transparency and accountability for their complicity in the rendition program.

The other side of the story is that we now have efforts to close Guantanamo. This effort relies also on the goodwill of other OSCE participating states to see Guantanamo inmates resettled on their territory. We very much encourage them to help the United States in finding solutions for the resettlement of Guantanamo detainees in cases where they cannot be sent back to their country of origin.

Omer Fisher is the Deputy Head of Human Rights at the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

The interview was conducted by Michael Knigge.

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