The international human rights organisation Reprieve, which represents detainees at Guantanamo Bay, has urged President Obama to take steps to close the prison ahead of the 15th anniversary of its opening on 11 January 2017.
President-elect Donald Trump has announced his intention to keep Guantanamo open. Last week, he tweeted that “there should be no further releases” from the prison.
The Bush Administration opened the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay on 11 January 2002. Among the hundreds imprisoned there – without charge or trial – were children, journalists, victims of mistaken identity, and people who were tortured into false ‘confessions’.
On taking office in January 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to shut down the prison. However, his Administration has faced criticism over lengthy delays in releasing prisoners – many of whom were unanimously cleared by six US federal agencies, under a system set up by Obama himself.
Some 55 prisoners remain at the prison today. Among them are Haroon Gul – an Afghan refugee who was imprisoned in 2007, after US forces mistakenly identified him as a different man; and Khaled Qassim, who was caught up in a sweep of arrests in Afghanistan in the months following September 11th 2001. Local forces in the area were offered large sums of money at the time in exchange for Arab prisoners.
Shelby Sullivan-Bennis – a Reprieve lawyer for several Guantanamo prisoners – said: “It should disgust every American – Donald Trump included – that for 15 years and counting, the US has held scores of prisoners without charge or trial. The vast majority were not even captured on the battlefield and posed no threat whatsoever to the US or its allies. We have to hope that after January 20th, Trump will look at the facts and see that Gitmo’s continued existence is a shocking affront to the US Constitution. In the meantime, Obama must do everything in his power to close the prison – before it’s too late.”
* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/