Closing Guantanamo

Obama's renewed vow to shut down the detention camp is reassuring

Four years after he promised to close the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where 166 inmates are currently being held indefinitely, US President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to seeing his campaign promise through. In response to questions about a hunger strike at the facility earlier this week 100 inmates are on strike Obama reiterated that keeping Guantanamo open is "not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive [and] inefficient". Yet, years of inaction have rendered this new push less credible.

Obama has blamed Congress for his failure to close the detention centre that has long blighted America's reputation. Congress has indeed created roadblocks to closing down Guantanamo, such as restricting the use of funds to transfer detainees to the US for trial, while imposing conditions that make transfers out of the US more difficult. The problems of release and transfer of detainees exist, but they don't apply to 86 of those imprisoned, as those detainees have been cleared for release to their home or third countries. They can be released if receiving countries take steps to ensure that they do not engage in terrorist activity and the secretary of defence certifies that such steps have been taken. The secretary can also waive the certification requirement in lieu of "alternative actions".

Of the other 80 detainees, 46 are designated for indefinite detention as they were deemed too dangerous to be released, even though the administration had little admissible evidence against them to prosecute or even charge them. Indeed, few of the inmates have been charged with any crime. Only six, including Khalid Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, are to face a military tribunal. As a place where people are unlawfully detained without trial or even without being charged, Guantanamo is a shadowy chapter in America's so-called war against terror. Obama must "re-engage" Congress, but he can begin to deliver on his promise by exercising his authority to transfer those 86 detainees right away.

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