News / USA

Obama Plan to Close Guantanamo Prison Faces Significant Obstacles

Activists wearing orange jumpsuits mark the 100th day of prisoners' hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay during a protest in front of the White House in Washington May 17, 2013.
Activists wearing orange jumpsuits mark the 100th day of prisoners' hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay during a protest in front of the White House in Washington May 17, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News

President Barack Obama is renewing his effort to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, but domestic opposition and the complexities of what to do with the prisoners there pose significant obstacles to shutting the facility on the Cuban shoreline.


The U.S. has held terrorism suspects at the prison since 2002. But in a major national security speech Thursday, Obama said the ongoing operation of the detention center - now with 166 prisoners - damages the reputation of the United States around the world.


"The original premise for opening [Guantanamo Bay] - that the detainees would not be able to challenge their detention -- was found unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, [Guantanamo] has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law," Obama said.


Nonetheless, recent surveys in the U.S. show that voters favor keeping Guantanamo open. In the last few years, several U.S. communities have voiced opposition to moving the Guantanamo detainees to prisons inside the U.S. Lawmakers in Congress have mixed opinions about what to do about the facility, and have moved to block transfer of the suspects to other countries or to bring them to the U.S. for trial.


Senator John McCain was once a prisoner of war in Vietnam and also was Obama's Republican presidential opponent in 2008. McCain favors closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and pledged to work with Obama on a plan. But he said the issues surrounding the facility are complex and that it is not clear what should be done with the prisoners being held there.
 

"There are a lot of moving parts to closing Guantanamo Bay, not the least of which is where you put these people, which ones have to be kept on almost an indefinite basis, those who are eligible for military courts, and those who are eligible for civilian courts. All those are tied together," McCain said.


Other lawmakers oppose closing the prison and sending some of the prisoners back to their home countries. Obama lifted his self-imposed ban on transferring some of the detainees back to Yemen. But one senator, Saxby Chambliss, says he opposes closing Guantanamo and has no confidence that Yemen can control any of the prisoners returned there.


"Between December 2009 and today, has Yemen shown any indication that they are more capable of looking after those individuals? Absolutely not. And If we were to transfer those individuals to Yemen, it would be just like turning them loose," Chambliss said.


David Remes, a human rights attorney who has represented several Guantanamo prisoners, said he does not think Obama's move to lift his ban on repatriating the Yemeni detainees has any practical effect unless he actually frees them.


But he said the possibility that some freed prisoners might engage in anti-American terrorist acts should not be the controlling factor in whether they are released.


"Even if one or two or three detainees, not necessarily in Yemen but anywhere, and not necessarily one, two or three, went back and did bad things, that doesn’t justify holding the large majority, the vast majority of detainees captive or hostage to the acts, to the bad acts of these few men," Remes said.


Remes said risks are inherent in the release of any of the prisoners. "One has to accept some risk if anyone’s going to be transferred. That’s simply the reality," he said.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid