Pentagon preparing plan to close Guantánamo

The Pentagon is working on a plan to close the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, according to a US Department of Defense official. The plan would be available to President-elect Barack Obama after he takes office on 20 January.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters on Thursday that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has asked his staff to come up with a proposal on how to close the camp, so that the Secretary “can be prepared to assist the President-elect should he wish to address this very early in his tenure”.

Pressed for more detail, the press secretary reminded reporters that Secretary Gates had previously stated that “he believes one of the requirements of closure is… legislation that will provide some sort of comprehensive framework for the detention of this population outside of the confines of Gitmo.”

In an interview with Time Magazine just published, President-elect Obama stated that among the benchmarks against which his first two years in office will be judged will be whether the Guantánamo detention facility has been closed down “in a responsible way”.  

Amnesty International has welcomed the prioritization being given to this issue, but said that no executive or legislative measures are taken that would replace one form of unlawfulness with another. The organization has long said that the closure of Guantánamo must not be achieved by transferring human rights violations to other locations, including inside the USA.

“President-elect Obama’s statement that he will make the closure of the Guantánamo facility a measure of the success of his presidency is very welcome,” said Kerrie Howard
Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Americas Program. “The detainees should either be promptly charged for trials in federal court or released with full protections against further human rights violations.

“Guantánamo is part of a wider problem, and closing the facility must mark a clean break with the range of unlawful detention policies and practices adopted by the USA in the ‘war on terror’,” added Kerrie Howard. “All illegal detentions and all torture and other ill-treatment must be ended, with accountability for human rights violations ensured.”