14 months to go.
Close Guantnamo
How to close Guantánamo

Dear friends and supporters,

With just 14 months to go until the end of Barack Obama's Presidency, the need for a coherent and workable plan for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay has never been more important.

And yet, of course, there are many obstacles that need to be overcome before this can happen. For the last five years, Congress has raised significant obstacles to the release of prisoners and the closure of Guantánamo -- and this year is no exception, even before the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday, which has only added to the resolve of some right-wingers to keep the prison open.

Last month, as we explained at the time, President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, in part because of lawmakers' restrictions on releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and an ongoing ban on bringing any prisoners to the U.S. mainland for any reason.

Unfortunately, Congress responded by addressing President Obama's other concerns, but not those relating to Guantánamo. As a result, the only way forward is for the president to issue a long-awaited plan for the closure of Guantánamo that can secure support in Congress -- or to act unilaterally.

In a detailed new article, "Playing Politics with the Closure of Guantánamo," Andy Worthington addresses these and other issues relating to the closure of the prison, drawing on a recent Washington Post op-ed by Greg Craig, who was White House Counsel in 2009, and Cliff Sloan, the envoy for Guantánamo closure in the State Department from 2013-14. Craig and Sloan stated, "Some maintain that the congressional ban on transfers from Guantánamo to the United States prevents closure without congressional approval. But that is wrong. Under Article II of the Constitution, the president has exclusive authority to determine the facilities in which military detainees are held. Obama has the authority to move forward. He should use it."

In his article, Andy also breaks down those still held at Guantánamo into three groups -- those already approved for release, who must be released as swiftly as possible (48 men), those facing trials (just ten men), and 49 others, who are all scheduled to face Periodic Review Boards, to assess their cases, a commendable process, but one that is moving far too slowly to be completed before President Obama leaves office. 

These 49 men have been described by the media as "forever prisoners." They were regarded as being "too dangerous to release" by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009, even though the task force also acknowledged that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. In other cases, the men had been recommended for prosecution until the basis of the charges against them collapsed under judicial scrutiny.

Crucially, Andy points out that, whatever avenue is taken, Guantánamo cannot be closed unless some of these men are brought to the U.S. mainland. As he notes:

"Here at 'Close Guantánamo,' we have absolutely no desire to see anyone brought to the U.S. mainland to be held without charge or trial, but while some NGOs and lawyers are campaigning and lobbying to prevent this happening at all costs, we believe that, looking at the situation pragmatically, some men will have to be transferred for Guantánamo to close, because the government will not, in reality, abandon its belief that some of the men it still holds are 'too dangerous to release,' while continuing to acknowledge that insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. 

"However, we hope this number will be as small as possible as a result of the PRBs that are still to come -- perhaps no more than a dozen or so in addition to the ten facing trials -- and, moreover, we believe that, on the U.S. mainland, these men will have rights they do not have at Guantánamo."

With thanks, as ever, for your support. We welcome your thoughts on the above, and if you would like to give us any feedback, please write to Andy at:

The "Close Guantánamo" team

P.S. Please, if you will, also ask your friends and family to join us -- just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email. Please also note that we can be found on Twitter here and on Facebook here.
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