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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid