Clinic News

International Human Rights Law Clinic Students Brief Policymakers on Guantanamo

Three students from the International Human Rights Law Clinic traveled to Washington, DC, over the March 2009 spring break to brief Executive Branch officials, Congressional staff, and human rights organizations on a policy paper released this week by the International Human Rights Law Clinic and UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, “Returning Home: Resettlement and Reintegration of Detainees Released from the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”

This policy paper recommends that the U.S. promote programs to assist former detainees released from the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to reintegrate into their communities.  These programs should be an integral part of any comprehensive plan to close the camp.
Based on a review of available data on released detainees as well as analysis of similar reintegration programs, the paper finds that assistance to released Guantánamo detainees will help support U.S. national security, repair America’s image abroad, and provide an appropriate humanitarian response to former detainees held for years in U.S. custody without trial or conviction.

The policy paper proposes the establishment of comprehensive, locally-tailored resettlement and reintegration programs.  These should offer short-term financial assistance and job support, an opportunity for former detainees to clear their names, and mental and physical health services.

The trip culminates over a semester of work for clinic interns Nandini Iyer ’10, Krista Kshatriya ’10, and Jonas Lerman ’10. The interns were supervised by International Human Rights Law Clinic Director and Clinical Professor Laurel Fletcher, Clinic Program Officer Jamie O’Connell, and Human Rights Center Faculty Director and Adjunct Professor Eric Stover.

“Repairing the damage of Guantánamo is one of the most pressing human rights issues we face as a nation,” Kshatriya says. “Our research reveals an urgent need for reintegration programs for detainees released from Guantánamo.”

The group plans to meet with representatives from the offices of Senators Boxer, Lugar, and Durbin, as well as a number of nonprofit organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First.

“Any comprehensive plan to close Guantánamo must include reintegration programs for released detainees,” says Iyer. “These meetings are valuable opportunities to present our findings and policy recommendations to those who will be involved in the discussions on closing Guantánamo.”

An Under-examined Problem

Most of the policy focus on the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay has been on the detainees who remain there. However, to date, the United States has released more than 500 detainees, and this number is expected to grow in the coming months. Many of these men were detained in error, due to flawed in intelligence; many never posed a threat to the United States.

However, the United States still has no formal program for helping these released detainees reenter their communities and begin to rebuild their lives. Few released detainees have received reintegration assistance of any kind—from the United States, from their home governments, or from private organizations—and upon their return home, they often face difficulties finding work, overcoming physical and psychological problems, and being fully accepted by their communities.

Lerman, Kshatriya, and Iyer all hope to work in the fields of human rights and international development after graduating.

“This project was a great first step toward the kind of work we hope to do after we leave Berkeley Law,” says Lerman. “I feel really lucky to have been a part of the Clinic.”