Another Christmas in Guantanamo: Lawyers See Failures to Close US Prison

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – JTF Guard Force Troopers transport a detainee to the detainee hospital located adjacent to Camp Four, Dec. 27, 2007. A staff of more than 100 health care personnel serve the approximately 275 unlawful enemy combatants at Joint Task Force Guantanamo. (JTF Guantanamo photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Billings)

Defense attorneys representing Guantanamo detainees are protesting that the pace in reviewing cases, remains too slow to meet Obama’s January 2017 deadline to close the prison that has been an icon of abuses in America’s War on Terror.

President Obama made closing Guantanamo a campaign promise and doubled down on that declaration just days into his office. Roughly 780 people have been sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison since 2002. There are now 107 left who are waiting for a hearing or release.

While Obama made it a goal of his administration to close the facility, only 135 prisoners have been released since he took office. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, by comparison, released 532.

The slow pace of releases has prompted critics to accuse Obama of failing to live up to his promise. Some see Obama’s finger-pointing toward Congress as a smokescreen designed to obscure the fact that the White House has enough power to do more under its own authority.

At least 86 of the remaining detainees could be freed or transferred to other countries with little interference by the legislative branch other than a requirement to give Congress notice of at least 30 days.

“There are signs of progress, but at the current pace the administration will not get through all the detainees and give them a proper chance of transfer by the time Obama steps down,” Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, told The Guardian.

In fact, 48 have already been cleared for release, ready to go without any other legal hurdles in front of them.

“It’s maddening that the administration constantly talks about the ‘irreducible’ number of Guantánamo detainees when it takes such slow steps to reduce the numbers itself,” Kebriaei said.

About Carmen Munir Russell-Sluchansky 360 Articles
Carmen is a multimedia journalist based in Washington, DC whose work has appeared in a variety of outlets including National Geographic, NBC News, the BBC, Asia! Magazine, The China Post, Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.