(New York) – Seven days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a joint resolution passed by Congress that empowered the president to use force against those responsible for the attacks. More than 11 years later that law is still in effect. On May 16, 2013, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, testified before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on the laws of war and the use of military force. He cautioned the committee on the dangers of extending or expanding war powers contained in the AUMF and argued it was time to retire the law.
The Obama administration has sought to use the AUMF to rationalize prolonged detention without charge or trial at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. In his prepared remarks, Roth said that Guantanamo should be closed and that the detainees held there should either be tried in federal court or released. “Congress’ insistence on using military commissions at Guantanamo has been an unmitigated disaster,” Roth said. In the question and answer session following Roth’s testimony, Senator James Inhofe took issue with Roth’s description, and polled two other panelists on whether they believed, as Roth stated, that Guantanamo was an “unmitigated disaster.” Roth replied that the use of military commissions at Guantanamo was “a scar on America’s reputation” and “unsustainable.”
At the hearing, Senator John McCain called for the closure of Guantanamo. He asked each of the five panelists whether it was time to shut the facility. Roth made clear that it would not be enough to simply close Guantanamo and move the detainees to a prison in the United States where they would still be held without charge. “Guantanamo North” is not the solution, he said.