On Tuesday (23 February), President Obama announced a plan to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, and urged Congress to support his proposal. Guantanamo was opened by the Bush administration in 2002 to detain foreign terror suspects, and has held 780 suspected militants to date. The facility has been criticised for violating the rights of detainees since most of them have been held without charges, and there were also reports of torture and abuse in the compound.
President Obama assumed office in 2009 with a major pledge to close Guantanamo. However, he has only made incremental progress since then by relocating prisoners that were considered to be minimal security risks overseas. Currently there are still 91 prisoners in Guantanamo. Under the plan presented to Congress, 35 of them would be transferred to other countries, while the remaining would be held in facilities on US soil with some potentially facing trial.
The President appealed to the Republican-controlled Congress by citing up to $180m in military expenditure could be saved if Guantanamo is closed. He also argues keeping Guantanamo open to be inconsistent with US values, and hurts the country’s reputation and partnerships in the world. Nevertheless, prominent Republicans in Congress have already raised objections to hosting terror suspects on the US mainland. The President has not stated whether he would unilaterally pursue executive action if Congress blocks his plan.
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