President Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay prison camp, but it remains open

President Bush opened it amid global protest, President Obama vowed to close it. After 15 years the Guantanamo Bay prison camp does not just remain open, it could even experience a revival under President Trump.
What began on January 11, 2002, with the transfer of 20 prisoners suspected of belonging to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist groups from Kandahar in Afghanistan to the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would relatively quickly evolve into a political and humanitarian nightmare that would soon vex the third consecutive US president.
Set up by the administration of George W. Bush in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Guantanamo was specifically chosen as a detention hub as its location on a US naval base on Cuba put it out of the reach of American courts.
The prisoners brought there – whose number would ultimately swell to over 700 from dozens of countries – were considered “unlawful combatants,” according to then-US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of Guantanamo’s staunchest supporters.
That designation would put them outside the legal protections guaranteed to prisoners of war by the Geneva Conventions and could keep them interned indefinitely without legal recourse. The deliberate flouting of international law in the treatment of Guantanamo inmates immediately triggered global protests. As a consequence, Guantanamo and its chained prisoners in their orange suits became synonymous with American injustice and hubris for many in the US and around the world.
While the nature of the Guantanamo prison camp has changed substantially and its inmate population dwindled over the past 15 years – largely due to legal interventions by top US courts, sustained political pressure and a new president who wanted it closed – the fact remains that to this day it is still open.
Even more than that, noted Jonathan Hafetz, who has represented several Guantanamo prisoners in court and teaches law at Seton Hall University, “the United States has not only failed to close a prison that has long been a symbol of lawlessness and abuse, it also failed to dismantle the legal architecture that supports it.”
This architecture, he said via email, “makes possible a system of indefinite detention without charge and of flawed military commissions for trying terrorism suspects, rather than the established federal courts.”
While the lion’s share of the onus associated with Guantanamo rests on George W. Bush’s shoulders for opening it, his successor also bears responsibility for not shuttering its gates.
“The record under both Bush and Obama has been very unsatisfactory,” said Lou Fisher, a scholar in residence at the Constitution Project, a US think tank, via email, “with few detainees tried by military tribunals and those who are face years of litigation. Some can never be tried because the evidence against them was the result of coercive interrogations.”
In a nutshell: With the opening of Guantanamo George W. Bush created a mess that Barack Obama – despite promises and the opportunity to do so early on in his tenure – has failed to entirely clean up.

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