[JURIST] US President Barack Obama signed the annual federal defense policy bill into law Friday but expressed dissatisfaction [press release] over provisions that limit the his ability to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. HR 3979 [bill profile] authorizes a $585 billion dollar budget for Department of Defense (DOD) operations in 2015. The legislation also provides for military construction authorizations and Department of Energy national security authorizations. Obama commented that Guantanamo costs the US millions of dollars annually and it weakens the US national security regime:
[T]he detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains open for the 13th consecutive year, costing the American people hundreds of millions of dollars each year and undermining America’s standing in the world. As I have said many times, the continued operation of this detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists. Closing the detention facility is a national imperative.
Obama’s remarks on Guantanamo came just days after the announcement of a landmark US-Cuba policy change [JURIST report] that promises to alter foreign relations with Cuba in upcoming years.
The detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] continue to face scrutiny within the US and internationally for the detainment of prisoners without due process and alleged human rights violations, including torture of detainees. Earlier this month the UN Committee Against Torture claimed the US has fallen short of full compliance [JURIST report] with the Convention Against Torture international treaty. In November the DOD announced the transfer [JURIST report] of five detainees from Guantanamo. Also in November the DOD announced the release [JURIST report] of Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda from Guantanamo, after nearly 13 years of imprisonment without a trial. In October a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] the public release of 28 videos showing the forcible removal and forced feeding of a detainee, but the US Department of Justice filed a motion seeking to stay [JURIST report] the order. At the beginning of 2014 Obama suggested [JURIST report] that 2014 should be the year to close the prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, as the US shifts away from a “permanent war footing.”