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.
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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid