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 A demonstration by Witness Against Torture calling for the closure of the offshore prison. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

 A demonstration by Witness Against Torture calling for the closure of the offshore prison. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

Obama Considering Executive Options to Shut Guantanamo: WSJ

Administration officials told the paper the president may take action that gets around Congressional ban

Andrea Germanos

President Obama is considering using executive power to close the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Closing the detention center was part of candidate Obama's promises in 2008, and shortly after taking office in 2009 he issued an executive order that the prison be closed within a year.  In January Obama said in his State of the Union that 2014 "needs to be the year... we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."

Yet the prison remains open, currently holding 149 men, roughly half of whom have been cleared for release , the majority of whom may never be charged

Thwarting a legislative route towards closure, which administration officials told the Journal the president prefers, is a 2010 Congressional ban on transfers of Guantamano prisoners to the United States for trial.

Officials said there are two options for the prison to close, either by vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), "in which the ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. is written," or by signing it but "declaring restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners an infringement of his powers as commander in chief."

The officials told the Journal that there are facilities within the U.S. that can house the prisoners.

Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, has noted that even if Obama closes the Guantanamo facility itself, its system of indefinite detention is not about to end for the prisoners who may be held without trial elsewhere.

Last year, then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that she was "deeply disappointed that the U.S. Government has not been able to close Guantánamo Bay, despite repeatedly committing itself to do so." Prisoners' human rights have continued to be violated, she added, saying that it is clear that "the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold."


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