Durbin Continues Calling For Closure Of Guantanamo Bay On 20th Anniversary Of The Arrival Of The First Detainees

WASHINGTON – On the 20th anniversary of the first detainees arriving at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke about the importance of closing this detention facility.  In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin called on the Biden Administration to do more to accelerate the closure of the facility once and for all.

“For 20 years, Guantanamo Bay has defied our constitutional values and the rule of law.  It has actually weakened our national security.  It cost us dearly—morally, monetarily,” said Durbin.  “Every day Guantanamo remains open is a victory for our nation’s enemies.  It is a symbol of our failure to hold terrorists accountable and our failure to honor the sacrifices of our service members.  These failures should not be passed on to another generation—they should end with the Biden Administration.”

Durbin continued, “…there is more the Biden Administration can and must do to accelerate the closure of Guantanamo.  First, the Administration should repatriate or resettle the 14 detainees who have been cleared for transfer.  There is no excuse, none, for any further delay, which is why President Biden should appoint a special envoy at the State Department to negotiate transfer agreements with other nations.  Additionally, the Biden Administration should appoint a senior official within the White House who will be accountable for leading the process of closing Guantanamo.  And finally, the Justice Department should bring its legal positions in alignment with President Biden’s stated goal of closing Guantanamo in his first term.”

During his speech, Durbin shared the story of Colleen Kelly, whose brother Bill died in the North Tower on September 11, 2001.  Ms. Kelly testified at last month’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing—which Durbin chaired—on closing Guantanamo Bay once and for all.

“During her testimony, she said, ‘Five men stand accused in the military commissions at Guantanamo of responsibility for planning and supporting the 9/11 attacks… Today… a trial has not even begun.  Instead, family members have heard years of argument in pre-trial hearings.  While these hearings have produced no legal justice for 9/11, they have revealed the shocking role of torture in undermining the 9/11 prosecution.’  At the end of her testimony, Ms. Kelly said, ‘My brother Bill was killed in what was likely the most public event in human history... My family does not have any of my brother’s remains, nor do one-third of 9/11 families.’  She said directly to us: ‘I am asking this Committee and the Biden Administration to deliver the next best thing – a resolution to the 9/11 Military Commission that provides answers to our questions, accountability for unlawful acts, justice too long denied, and a path to closing Guantanamo.’”

Durbin concluded, “By allowing Guantanamo to remain open, we are giving our enemies the power to define who America is.  It’s time to reclaim that power and prove to the world that America is not a nation defined by our darkest moments.  We’re a nation defined by our values.  Let’s start living up to them.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin has been an advocate in the effort to close Guantanamo Bay for many years.  In 2013, Durbin chaired a hearing to examine the national security, fiscal, and human rights implications of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  In April 2021, Durbin led 23 Senate Democrats in a letter to President Joe Biden expressing their support for finally closing the detention facility.