The U.S. Senate is set to begin debate on the annual massive military spending bill this week. As in years past, the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, will include language prohibiting the use of funds to close Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison established in 2002 during the War on Terror.
The Senate version of the NDAA currently being debated not only extends the restrictions on closing or modifying the facility; it bans the transfer of detainees to Afghanistan, Libya, the United States, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen. It also directs the Department of Defense to begin planning for the medical needs of the aging population at Guantanamo.
The White House told VOA Tuesday it strongly opposes the prohibitions.
“These provisions would interfere with the President’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of GTMO detainees and to make important foreign policy and national security determinations regarding whether and under what circumstances to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries,” a spokesperson said.
In February 2021, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “certainly our goal and our intention” to close the facility by the end of U.S. President Joe Biden’s term. To date, the Biden administration has released 10 detainees.
According to a New York Times estimate in March 2022, 30 people were currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay. In the 20 years it has existed, nine people have died while in custody and 741 people have been transferred out of the facility.
Last year, 69 members of the Senate and House of Representatives urged the Armed Services committees to include closure of Guantanamo Bay in that year’s NDAA.
“With an astronomical cost of $500 million annually, the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials violates our Constitution, betrays our values, and undermines America’s credibility as an advocate for democratic values and the rule of law abroad,” the lawmakers wrote.
But many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have argued the facility is necessary. In 2009, when then-President Barack Obama attempted to close Guantanamo Bay and transfer detainees to facilities in the United States, the Senate voted 90-6 to keep it open.
“The American people don’t want these men walking the streets of America’s neighborhoods. The American people don’t want these detainees held at a military base or federal prison in their backyard, either,” Republican Senator John Thune said at the time of that vote.
Guantanamo Bay has been the subject of extensive litigation. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court found that detainees were entitled to minimal protections under the Geneva Conventions, despite the assertions of the George W. Bush administration. The United Nations has demanded the closure of Guantanamo Bay, as has Amnesty International, which found in 2005 that the facility “has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has used Guantanamo Bay as an example when asked to defend his human rights record. In a June 2021 press conference, he said, “It is still working and doesn’t come under any kind of law. International, American, nothing. But it still exists.”
Biden’s immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, signed an executive order keeping the facility open indefinitely.
Source : VOANEWS