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For Immediate Release

PHR Welcomes President Obama’s Call to Close Guantánamo, Points to Need for Concrete Steps and Timeline

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

Media Relations Manager, New York
Tel: 917-679-0110

New York, NY - 05/23/2013

Physicians for Human Right (PHR) today welcomed President Obama’s remarks about the need to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center, and hopes the administration will take immediate and concrete steps to ensure all detainees are transferred or released promptly.

“We welcome the president’s call to close the Guantánamo facility, and hope today’s announcement about appointing officials to oversee the closing and a commitment to release some detainees to Yemen bring us a step closer to righting a wrong,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “While we are pleased the president is addressing the issue, there remains a great need to finally move from words to action, and establish a timeline for how every detainee will either be safely released or charged and tried fairly. The ongoing hunger strike at Guantánamo exemplifies the kind of desperation that ensues when the government commits human rights abuses and resorts to indefinite detention, with no end in sight.”

While President Obama did not specifically address the Senate Select Committee Intelligence report in his speech, PHR stressed the need for information about the government’s torture program to be released to the public.

“As a country, we cannot move forward without facing the deplorable use of torture, which harms our reputation and conflicts with our American values,” McKay said. “In order to ensure accountability and transparency, the White House must release the Senate Select Committee Intelligence Report on torture. Only then can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated, and we can begin to move beyond this dark period of widespread human rights violations.”

The president’s remarks on Guantánamo this afternoon came during a wide-ranging speech on counter-terrorism policy – the first major speech on the topic in his second term – at National Defense University in Washington, DC.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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