News / USA

Obama Renews Pledge to Close Guantanamo Prison

President Barack Obama talks about national security, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.
President Barack Obama talks about national security, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.
Kent Klein
President Barack Obama pledged Thursday to renew his attempts to close the controversial U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president announced his plan in an hourlong, wide-ranging speech on U.S. counterterrorism policy.

Obama first promised to close Guantanamo when he ran for president in 2008.  On his third day in office in 2009, he signed an order to close the facility within the year.

Later that year, the U.S. Senate blocked the funding needed to transfer or release prisoners from the camp.  And in 2011, the president signed a defense spending bill which restricted the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or other countries, forcing the facility to remain open.

In Thursday’s comprehensive address, Obama said his administration is committed to prosecuting alleged terrorists whenever possible. He called the detention of terror suspects without charge at Guantanamo “a glaring exception” which is damaging America’s global image.

“The original premise for opening GTMO - that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention - was found unconstitutional five years ago.  In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.  Our allies will not cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at GTMO,” Obama said.

The president called on Congress to lift the restrictions it placed on transferring detainees from Guantanamo to other countries or imprisoning them in the United States.  

Obama asked the Defense Department to designate a location in the U.S. where military commissions could be held.  The president also said he is appointing a senior envoy to the State and Defense Departments who will work to transfer detainees to other countries.

The president said he would lift the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, to allow each case to be reviewed individually.  And he committed to trying terror suspects in U.S. civilian and military courts, where appropriate.

There are 166 prisoners still at Guantanamo.  Eighty-six have been approved for transfer as long as security restrictions are met.  More than 100 of the prisoners are on a hunger strike to protest their detention, and about 30 are being force-fed.

Toward the end of the speech, when he addressed the Guantanamo issue, Obama was interrupted repeatedly by an anti-war heckler.  The president acknowledged her as he made his case for closing the camp.  

“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike.  I am willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack, because it is worth being passionate about.  Is this who we are?,” Obama said.

At Human Rights Watch, counterterrorism adviser Laura Pitter says she believes the hunger strikers forced U.S. officials to revisit the Guantanamo issue.

“Well, the hunger strike has really put the issue of closing Guantanamo back on the political agenda.  It is unfortunate that the detainees had to resort to such drastic measures and desperate measures in order to get the attention of the administration and Congress again,” Pitter said.

President Obama has been criticized at home and around the world for failing to close Guantanamo.  He also has faced domestic opposition for proposing the detention of terror suspects on U.S. soil.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: williambtm from: Australia
May 24, 2013 9:09 AM
Tis really the simplest matter to close down Guantanamo, first ignore the objectors, (maybe 3% of the US of A population) then just announce close this place down in 1 weeks time!

How hard is it, really?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs