White House finalising plan to close Guantanamo prison

2015-07-23 12:05
Guantanamo guards keep watch over a cell block at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba. (Brennan Linsley, AP)

Guantanamo guards keep watch over a cell block at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba. (Brennan Linsley, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The White House is in the "final stages" of drafting a plan to close the contentious Guantanamo Bay prison and will submit it for review by lawmakers, spokesperson Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama made the closure of the controversial prison in Cuba a priority when he took office in 2009, but the plan has faced numerous setbacks, including Congress blocking the transfer of detainees to US prisons.

"The administration is in fact in the final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly [close] the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to present that to Congress," Earnest said.

"That has been something that our national security officials have been working on for quite some time, primarily because it is a priority of the president."

The operation in Cuba is not an effective use of government resources, Earnest told reporters.

"This is complicated work, but we have made a lot of important progress," he added.

Cuba sees US as 'occupier'

The broader US naval base at Guantanamo in southeastern Cuba is also opposed by the Cuban government, with which the United States just restored diplomatic relations. Cuba says the United States is illegally occupying its land.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called for the return of the territory to Cuba and for a lifting of the US embargo against the communist country while in Washington on Monday.

Standing next to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Rodriguez said Havana aimed to move forward.

But he stressed "totally lifting the blockade, the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo as well as the full respect for Cuban sovereignty, are crucial to be able to move towards the normalisation."

Kerry said that the US had no plans to alter its Guantanamo lease treaty. Cuba however says there is no lease, and that there has been none in a half century.

Transfers and opposition

Washington has slowly been sending Guantanamo prisoners back to their home countries or to third countries, something that needs to continue if the facility is to shut, Earnest said.

The United States said in June a group of six Yemeni detainees were transferred to Oman.

Other detainees need to be prosecuted or reviewed for release, Earnest said.

A new special envoy tasked with closing the prison was also recently appointed by Kerry.

Lee Wolosky, a lawyer who worked under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, was chosen as the State Department's Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure.

The post, which tries to manage the transfers of detainees, had been vacant since December.

But the transfer of detainees to the United States is opposed by Congress, and some lawmakers have tried to halt all transfers out of Guantanamo, saying the releases could lead to more attacks.

In June, the Senate endorsed a bill that strengthens restrictions on the closure of the Guantanamo prison, a plan Obama has threatened to veto.

Earnest said he was concerned about seeing Congress "repeatedly impede the effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay despite bipartisan agreement that closing the prison is actually in the national security interest of the United States."

The military prison opened in January of 2002 shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

After reaching a peak of 680 prisoners in 2003, there are 116 inmates remaining.

Just under half of the detainees remaining have been cleared to leave but have yet to be resettled or repatriated.

Detainees have been slowly tried by military commissions in Guantanamo Bay in cases that have stretched over years. Many cases remain stalled in lengthy pre-trial stages.

The Obama administration has pushed for trial of terrorism suspects in federal court, saying the venue leads to justice much faster than military tribunals.

Read more on:    cuba  |  us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.