Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Close Guantanamo

President Obama has said that he wants to close Guantanamo. Here is how he could do so if he cares enough to fight for it.


Britain, Egypt, Tunisia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Yemen are all pressuring the United States to release prisoners from their countries held at Guantanamo Bay. 55 of the 83 prisoners cleared for release at the prison are from Yemen. In fact 73 of the 83 prisoners cleared for release are from countries that are either actively seeking their release or have taken Guantanamo prisoners in the past (5 Tunisians, 4 Afghans, 1 Brit, 3 Algerians, a Mauritanian, a Moroccan, a Saudi, a Sudanese, and an Emirati). Obama could order these prisoners released immediately. As they have been cleared for release for over 3 years now, he has an obligation to do so.

If Obama were the abandon the idea of indefinite detention and order the prisoners in that category to be released as well, 44 of the 47 are from countries that have taken Guantanamo prisoners before or are actively seeking their release.

Suitable homes for the remaining 10 cleared for release and 3 indefinite detainees could be found using creative diplomacy. We have already done so with 19 of the Uighurs.


Closing the physical prison at Guantanamo would also require dealing with the remaining category of prisoners, those recommended for trial. Some prisoners are only accused of providing material support for terrorism and/or conspiracy. These are crimes that the DC Court of Appeals has ruled cannot be tried in military commissions for actions taken prior to 2006, when Congress gave those courts the authority to do so. These individuals must be tried in civilian courts in the United States. Individuals accused of more significant crimes can continue to be tried in military commissions at Guantanamo.

The provisions banning the transfer of prisoners to the US are amendments to yearly appropriations bills. They must be reapproved every year. So if the President actually commits to closing Guantanamo, He can veto the 2014 NDAA when Congress passes it with the provision. Doing so would limit funds for our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, but the President could easily blame Congress for “politicizing money for our troops abroad.” Once the trials both military and civilian are completed, the president could move the prisoners to Thompson, Illinois to serve their sentences.


Correction (December 4, 2013): After I wrote this editorial I learned that the 3 remaining Algerians at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release do not wish to return to Algeria. That brings the number of prisoners who are cleared for release but for whom new homes must be found to 13. By nationality they are as follows: 4 Syrians, 3 Algerians, 3 Uighurs, a Libyan, a Tajik, and a Palestinian.

If those currently scheduled for indefinite detention are cleared for release due to inadequate or unreliable evidence of guilt, as I recommended, the number would be 16. The additional 3 are 2 Libyans and a Kenyan. To be clear the Kenyan is the only man from his country to have been held at Guantanamo, so it is unclear if the Kenyan government would be willing to take him back or not.

But that still leaves 70 prisoners who are cleared for release who wish to return to their home country and whose country’s government has taken Guantanamo prisoners in the past or is actively campaigning for their release.

The text in the original editorial remains unchanged.  

No comments:

Post a Comment