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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Barack Obama: close Guantánamo as it is damaging America

Barack Obama is to make a fresh attempt to shut down the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, he announced on Tuesday, as more doctors were sent to deal with a hunger strike that has spread to more than two-thirds of detainees in the military prison camp.
Mr Obama, who pledged to close the camp during his 2008 election campaign but was thwarted by Congress, restated his opposition to the camp that was set up by the Bush administration after the September 11 attacks to hold detainees from its 'War on Terror'.

"Guantánamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed," he told a White House press conference.

The fate of the 166 detainees – some 86 of whom are being held indefinitely, despite being cleared for release – has been the subject of a decade of outcry by civil society, legal and human rights groups, despite polls showing it of marginal concern to the US public.

Acknowledging the injustice of detention without trial, Mr Obama said that he was "not surprised" that some 100 detainees had chosen death by hunger-strike rather than life in Guantánamo, but pledged to keep those detainees alive, by force-feeding if necessary.

"The notion that we're going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no-man's-land in perpetuity, even at a time when we've wound down the war in Iraq, we're winding down the war in Afghanistan is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop," he added.
As a result, Mr Obama said had instructed his White House team to "re-engage" with Congress which blocked the attempts to have detainees tried in Federal courts and to identify all possible administrative measures that could get detainees returned to home or third party countries.

It is far from clear what progress Mr Obama can make, but civil and human rights groups welcomed the president's move which they described as "long overdue", while accusing him of acting belatedly and only when pricked on by the scandal of the growing hunger strikes.

"The blame rests not only with Congress but also with the Obama administration, and they must work together to address the serious human rights violations that are occurring in Guantánamo," said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative which works closely with Guantánamo defence legal teams.

"For too long the administration has acted as though Guantánamo was an issue that could be ignored. It now needs to seize this issue make serious efforts to transfer these detainees. There have got to be ways of ending this flagrantly illegal detention without trial," she told The Daily Telegraph.

Laura Pitter, a lawyer and counter-terrorism expert with Human Rights Watch also welcomed the news, but added that Mr Obama could not entirely escape the blame for failing to do more.

"He made a pledge on his second day in office to close Guantánamo and we are glad that he is now going to continue with that effort," she told The Daily Telegraph.

"He is still able to transfer detainees out of Guantánamo. He's obviously recognising that detention without charge or trial is not a sustainable policy, or in the interests of US national security." Despite the furore surrounding Guantánamo, the US government is continuing to prosecute two high-profile cases in the War Crimes Tribunals at Guantánamo, a legal system that opponents say is unconstitutional and has been mired in delays and scandals.

Most recently, this month the trial of the accused in the 9/11 attacks was delayed for two months after it emerged that hundreds of defence emails had been inadvertently sent to the prosecution, raising further questions about the probity of the system.

2 comments:

  1. Thwarted by a Democrat controlled Congress?

    ReplyDelete
  2. So close it. Issue an exec order. You are the Commander in Chief. And you know it. So you are a liar.

    ReplyDelete