Wednesday Feb 24, 2016
By Wajid Ali Syed
WASHINGTON: President Obama has said he aims to shut down Guantanamo Bay detainee facility preferably before his term ends later this year, since, as he said, the prison has not advanced the national security but actually undermined it.
Obama said he does not want to pass this issue to the next coming president, and neither can the nation wait for another 10, 15 or 30 years to resolve it. The president announced that a new plan prepared by the defence department has his support.
“The plan we are putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo. This is not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened. This is about closing a chapter in our history,” he said. The amended plan will be submitted before the Congress for approval according to which 85 percent of the detainees will be transferred to foreign countries, and remaining will face trials in the US.
President Obama said at least 35 detainees considered to pose threat will be brought to the US and their cases will be heard in federal courts. The specific locations where these detainees will be transferred have not been identified yet. “This will also eliminate terrorist propaganda tool,” he said, adding that, (Guantanamo) has been counterproductive against fighting terrorism.
In his remarks, Obama said the earlier plan to close down the Guantanamo facility was bipartisan when he first ran for president. “President Bush wanted to close it down,” he said adding that, “I and John McCain agreed to close it too,” but later the issue became partisan and the Congress imposed restrictions.
“Despite the politics we made progress,” the president said. The Obama administration transferred 174 detainees in the last seven years, and will continue to use legal tools to transfer the remaining detainees systematically. “We will work with Congress to hold these detainees in the US”. He said there are a number of terrorists held in the US and the country managed it fine. The most effective option is federal courts, insteadof using the military commission prosecution. The closing down of the Gitmo facility will save money and the new plan will lower the cost to $85 million a year. The fiscal year 2015 cost to operate the Guantanamo Bay detention mission was approximately $445 million. In addition to annual operating costs, maintaining this mission in the future would require approximately $200 million in military construction that has been deferred in recent years, and $25 million for related furnishings.
According to the new plan, the US government is pursuing three lines of effort simultaneously. This includes, identifying transfer opportunities for detainees designated for transfer; continuing to review the threat posed by those detainees who are not currently eligible for transfer and who are not currently facing military commission charges, and continuing with ongoing military commissions prosecution and, for those detainee who remain designated for continued law of war detention, identifying individualised disposition where available, including military omission prosecution, transfer to third countries, foreign prosecution or, should Congress lift the ban on transfers to the US, transfer to the United States for prosecution in Article III courts and to serve sentences.
For the group of detainees who remain designated for continued detention and who are not candidates for the US prosecution or detention or transfer to a foreign country, the administration will work with Congress to relocate them from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to a secure detention facility in the US.—Originally published in The News