US President Barack Obama [official website] on Tuesday renewed his pledge to make an effort to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder]. At a news conference [transcript] Tuesday, Obama was asked about the ongoing hunger strike [Miami Herald graphic; JURIST news archive], now involving 100 of the 166 detainees. He responded, "Well, it is not a surprise to me that we've got problems in Guantanamo, which is why when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008, and when I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantanamo. I continue to believe that we've got to close Guantanamo." Obama went on to say:
Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close itand despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. I'm going to go back at this. I've asked my team to review everything that's currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively. And I'm going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that's in the best interest of the American people. And it's not sustainable.Rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] welcomed [press release] the president's statement. On Wednesday a group of UN human rights experts said the indefinite detention may be a violation of international law [press release].
Earlier this week JURIST Guest Columnist David Frakt of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law argued that the Obama administration should release those detainees [JURIST op-ed] held at Guantanamo Bay who have already been declared to not be a danger to the US. Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for US authorities to close down the Guantanamo prison camp [JURIST report], emphasizing the continued indefinite incarcerations of many detainees as a clear violation of international law. During his 2008 campaign, Obama stated that closing the Guantanamo military prison would be a priority for his first term. Shortly after he assumed office, Obama issued an executive order [JURIST report] for the closure of the site within one year. According to Frakt, the Obama administration is not solely to blame [JURIST op-ed] for Guantanamo remaining open. The US Congress has, since 2009, "passed a series of increasingly stringent spending restrictions which have made it virtually impossible to transfer most detainees out of Guantanamo." Other scholars, including Forum contributor Jonathan Hafetz, have raised concerns [JURIST op-ed] about how the failure to close Guantanamo Bay "has helped justify the policies of arbitrary detention and torture that spurred its creation in the first place."