Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, along with drone strikes, have been the whipping boy of human rights groups when it comes to President Barack Obama’s presidency.
While Barack has attempted to close the facility during the entire eight years of his time in office, Guantanamo Bay has held on stubbornly due to opposition from Republicans in Congress and the Pentagon. Obama’s most recent move has been seen by some as a mad dash to shift blame for the blight off of his presidency.
Late last month, the president delivered a speech promising all Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be relocated as soon as possible. The controversial facility, he noted, has become a sore spot for foreign policy abroad as it has received nearly universal condemnation from global political leaders, reported The Telegraph.
“For many years its been clear that the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security. It undermines it… Let us do what is right for America. Let us go ahead and close this chapter”.
Despite hesitancy to believe these projections after such long period of inaction, a Guantanamo Bay review board seems to have taken the first step to making Barack’s claims a reality. The Periodic Review Board has already cleared 19 prisoners for release, and five more are likely to receive the same pardoning soon. Some of them, reported Associated Press, have actually already left the grounds.
While these releases seem like an immediate victory for critics of Guantanamo Bay, it’s worth noting that 50 such detainees were classified as “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution” when the last review took place. Furthermore, the release is seen as an admission by some that these particular men were held without any evidence — some of them for more than a decade.
Because of that, David Glazier, a Loyola Law School professor who is familiar with Guantanamo Bay prisoner court documents, said that it’s hard to call the action a triumph for human rights.
“If you just care about justice for human beings it’s a little odd that it’s taken 14 years to ask the questions in a hard enough way to discover that.”
Since Obama assumed the presidency in 2008, the number of Guantanamo Bay prisoners has dropped from 250 to just 91. Of that group, 36 have already jumped through the proper hoops to secure their release. Yet some of the group is a bit more difficult. For instance, five men await their trial for alleged roles in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Moreover, it is not unheard of for Guantanamo Bay detainees to commit acts of terrorism anew after leaving the compound. An estimated 5 percent of those released have committed another crime, and 8 percent are suspected of it. Those statistics have only served to galvanize the GOP, who almost across the board insist that it not only remain open, but that prisoners are not transferred to other areas. Many of them accuse president Obama of bending to the will of allies at the expenses of the American people, such as Marco Rubio in his final debate performance before dropping out of the Republican race.
“There should be no confusion in the minds of our enemies that, if captured, they will be sent to the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay to be interrogated.”
While President Barack Obama will not be dedicating any of his two-day Cuba trip to visiting prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, it will invariably become a part of his agenda over the course of his stay. Noticeably absent from his schedule, however, is a meeting with Fidel Castro.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]