US closes office to close Gitmo

The State Department is shuttering the office dedicated to closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba in an apparent signal that the White House has given up for now, The New York Times reported.

  • Published: 29/01/2013 at 10:00 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

The special diplomatic envoy tasked with repatriating and resettling the detainees, Daniel Fried, will become the State Department's coordinator for sanctions policy, according to an internal personnel announcement obtained by the Times.

His responsibilities for trying to figure out a way to close "Gitmo" will be assumed by the office of the department's legal adviser.

US President Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign promised to close the prison, saying it became a stain on the United States' human-rights record during President George W Bush's presidency.

On his first day in office, Jan 20, 2009, Mr Obama announced Guantanamo would close within a year, and top terrorists would be brought into the United States for civilian trials.

That got nowhere after lawmakers refused to transfer the detainees to the continental United States. Mr Obama threatened to veto a one-year restriction on transferring detainees to the US in this year's defense authorisation bill, but ended up dropping his threat and signing it earlier this month.

At least 166 detainees remain at the facility, Mr Obama said in December. This month marks the 11th year the prison has been open.

Mr Bush, Mr Obama's predecessor, set up the prison after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Many detainees have been held there for years without being charged. Guantanamo is not a prison, but a detention centre.

Not only has President Obama failed to close it, critics claim he has embraced two fundamental violations of human rights: unfair trials and indefinite detention.

In January, 2012, UN human rights Chief Navi Pillay said the United States was still flouting international law at Guantanamo Bay by arbitrarily and indefinitely detaining individuals.

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