Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trump will keep Guantanamo Bay open and may add new detainees

  Obama never was able to follow through on his promise to  close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. In his presidential campaign far from promising closure Donald Trump promised to keep the detention center open. Trump appears to be taking action to keep his promise.

In March, Trump asked Congress for additional funding for the facility. A request for $115 million to be incorporated in a 2018 spending bill is under consideration.The money would build a new military barracks for US troops but it also contains language that prevents the facility from being closed and also bans the transfer of any detainees to the United States mainland.

In his campaign in February of 2016 Trump said of Guantanamo: "We're going to load it up with bad dudes." The acting Pentagon comptroller John Roth said that it did not seem as if the facility would close anytime soon. Trump has not as yet sent any new detainees to Cuba but Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he saw no legal problems with sending more detainees to the facility. Sessions said in a radio interview this March: "I've been there a number of times as a senator, and it's just a very fine place for holding these kind of dangerous criminals. We've spent a lot of money fixing it up, and I'm inclined to the view that it remains a perfectly acceptable place."

While Obama did not close Guantanamo he vastly reduced the population. Trump said in January of this year that there should be no further releases from Gitmo because the detainees were extremely dangerous and should not be allowed back on the battlefield. There are only 41 detainees left. A majority 26 are being held without charge, three have been convicted, and seven others face charges. There are another five recommended for transfer  in spite of Trump claiming they are all dangerous.

David Rivkin, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of  Democracies, who served under both President Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the Justice Department said: “We have taken off the table the silly ideas that the previous administration had about Guantanamo.” After Trump's inauguration there were various draft executive orders floating around that would have revoked Obama's executive order that the facility be closed and suspend any existing transfers pending a review. The orders also called for the facility to continue to operate to hold members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces including those of the Islamic State. But for some reason none of the orders have yet been signed. Perhaps Trump is too busy playing golf. The issue of Guantanamo appears to be off the press radar for the most part.

Wells Dixon, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents some detainees says that business is going ahead as usual at the facility although no one new has been cleared for transfer. A US Department of Justice spokesperson, Ian Prior said of a visit by officials to the facility: “In addition to the Department of Justice's role in handling detainee-related litigation, it is important for the Department of Justice to have an up-to-date understanding of current operations...Keeping this country safe from terrorists is the highest priority of the Trump administration. Recent attacks in Europe and elsewhere confirm that the threat to our nation is immediate and real, and it remains essential that we use every lawful tool available to prevent as many attacks as possible.” Sessions has claimed there is plenty of space for new prisoners at Guantanamo and it is well equipped to handle them. Experts have pointed out that the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that is used to justify the indefinite detention of suspected Al Qaeda members etc. does not mention the Islamic State. Dixon said any arrival of a suspected IS member would face a legal challenge.

The election of Trump has led to loss of hope for many detainees who fear they will never be released. Dixon said: “The men are very aware of fact that no one has left Guantanamo since end of the Obama administration, and that takes a tremendous psychological toll,” he said. “It is torture by any reasonable measure.”

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