U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement from the briefing room of the White House in Washington on December 5, 2011.

© 2011 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – US President Barack Obama’s signing of a bill permitting indefinite detention without trial mere days before the 10th anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at Guantanamo highlights the need for immediate, decisive action to close the detention facility, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Obama on January 10, 2012.

Provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that mandate military custody for certain terrorism suspects and codify indefinite detention without trial into US law are a complete rejection of the vision Obama outlined for counterterrorism policy when he took office, Human Rights Watch said. The law effectively operates as a ban on federal court trials by prohibiting the use of defense department funds to transfer detainees to the US. It also makes it difficult, but not impossible, to transfer detainees to their home or third countries. Human Rights Watch called on Obama to seek repeal of those provisions, while interpreting them in a manner consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.

“The tragedy of Guantanamo is compounded every day it stays open,” said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel and advocate. “This 10th anniversary should mark the moment when the Obama administration seriously commits to closing Guantanamo by seeking to change the law barring federal court trials and by releasing Guantanamo detainees already cleared for transfer.”