Guantanamo detainees prepare for potential departure

Detainees in Guantanamo Bay prison and security guards prepare to leave as lawmakers criticise decision to release prisoners

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Chain link fence and concertina wire surrounds a deserted guard tower within Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Camp Delta at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba March 21, 2016.

Detainees in Guantanamo Bay military prison and security officers are getting ready for their possible departure from the compound, while lawmakers in the capital Washington stand against the liberation.

The authorities’ decision to keep Guantanamo open or closed depends on President Barack Obama, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Rear Admiral Peter Clarke has said.

However, Obama previously announced his wish to close the controversial detention centre at the US naval base in Cuba before he leaves office in January 2017.

"The image that Guantanamo portrays is of what happened in the past somewhere else, not even here, but it still it is the face of not such good things that may have happened in the past, and I fully support his effort to just close that chapter of American history," Admiral Clarke said in an interview last Tuesday.

On 16 April, the US transferred nine Yemeni prisoners to Saudi Arabia from Guantanamo, lowering the number of prisoners in the detention centre to 80.

The weekend transfer, which included one prisoner who had been on hunger strike since 2007, came just days before President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia to attend a summit of Gulf Arab allies.

After lenghty negotiations, Obama and Saudi King Salman agreed on Saudi Arabia taking nine Yemenis in order to resettle them and put them into a state-run rehabiliton program with the aim of integrating them into society, US officials said.

It was the largest group of detainees to be released at one time since Obama declared last February that planned to close the centre. He also released a Pentagon-authored proposal to hold some 30-60 detainees in maximum-security prisons on US soil.

But Obama has faced harsh criticism for his stance on shutting down Guantanamo, particularly from opposition Republican lawmakers.

"Do you want them in your town? Do you want them in your neighbor's town? Do you want them where your daughter is, you know, where your children are? I don't," Republican Congressman Ted Yoho said on Wednesday.

Obama says he is considering issuing an executive order to close the prison if Congress does not accept the proposals.

TRTWorld and agencies