Friday, 22 January 2010

One year after Obama pledged to close the Guantanamo prison, 196 detainees are still held there

REUTERS / NBC - On his second full day in office, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order mandating that the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay be shut down within one year.
"This is me following through on, not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but, I think, an understanding that dates back to our Founding Fathers -- that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy but also when it's hard," Obama said that day.

But a full year later, the detention facility which now houses remains open and housing 196 detainess -- there are no immediate plans to shut it down.

"The President won't meet the deadline he laid out a year ago," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday (January 21, 2010). "But the President, his national security team, our generals in Iraq and Afghanistan, understand the support for al Qaeda that Guantanamo provides them in recruiting, in attracting those that seek to do us harm. To keep the American people safe, the President pledged to close Guantanamo Bay, and he'll do that."

The Obama administration is moving ahead with its effort to close the prison despite criticism by Republican lawmakers who worry that some former detainees released from the Guantanamo facility may be returning to the battlefield.

"These are terrorists," said Representative Don Manzullo, a Republican of Illinois. "They should be tried by military tribunals, not brought to the United States, not posing a threat of national security, not taking advantage of the Constitution, which they have sworn to destroy because they hate Americans."

Obama has halted indefinitely any transfers to Yemen because of concerns about al Qaeda operating there. The suspect in the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger jet arriving in Detroit is believed lnked to a Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda.

The administration, which intends to prosecute some detainees in U.S. military tribunals or civilian criminal courts, plans to move them to a prison in Illinois, but Congress has refused to fund the transfer of any Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons, and foreign countries are reluctant to accept them.