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Defense Department reviewing Colorado prisons as alternative to Guantanamo Bay

[JURIST] Officials from the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] said Friday that they are sending teams to review three Colorado prisons as part of President Barack Obama's ongoing efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Officials plan to visit ADX Florence, a federal Supermax prison, along with a medium-security prison nearby and the Colorado State Penitentiary [official websites]. The visits serve two purposes, officials say. Immediately, officials are looking for facilities to transfer existing Guantanamo prisoners. More generally, officials expect to gain a greater understanding of the viability of housing Guantanamo Bay-type prisoners in the US. There are currently 114 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, 53 of whom are eligible for transfer. The remaining 61 have been deemed too dangerous for detention in the US.

The Guantanamo Bay prison [JURIST backgrounder] was set up in 2002 by the Bush administration as a facility to hold the most dangerous war criminals. At its peak in 2003, the prison had a population of 684 inmates. When Obama took office in 2008, one of his first directives was to close the facility, but he has faced considerable opposition in achieving that goal. Obama has given many reasons for wanting to close the prison, chief among them being the plethora of human rights accusations it has spawned. Earlier this month, the US released [JURIST report] a former Guantanamo detainee to Morocco, but a lawyer for Younous Chekkouri reports that upon arrival he was arrested and is now facing "baseless charges" of terrorism and is being held in provisional detention. The day before, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Djamel Ameziane filed a petition [JURIST report] with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking reparations from the US government for human rights violations he alleges that he endured while in custody. Ameziane was held for 12 years in Guantanamo Bay without charge and claims he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse while there. In September federal judge Gladys Kessler ordered the release [JURIST report] of eight redacted videos showing forced feedings at Guantanamo Bay prison. The videos, released as part of former prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab's suit against the federal government, depict tube feeding conducted by medical and security personnel.

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