The current President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama had promised to close the Guantanamo Bay 120 days from the time he assumed office. Obama was not the first president to advocate for the closure of the detention camp.
President Bush had in the period starting 2006 indicated that he would like to have the facility closed. His sentiments were echoed by the international community, with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for its closure.
In trying to close the facility, Obama has met amongst which is trying to obtain a balance between the security rights of the free world and the rights of prisoners. We now move on to a three-part discussion that gives the background of the Guantanamo Bay, how the existence of the detention camp has been legally handled and the way forward regarding the welfare of prisoners at the facility. These three parts are summarized below:
After the September 11 2001, terror attack in the United States, a consensus was reached that military force be used against countries or individuals suspected to be linked to the attacks. Over 10,000 people were arrested, of whom 700 were sent to the Guantanamo Bay a facility initially used to house refugees.
Initially, the detainees were held at Camp X-Ray, before being later moved to the modern Camp Delta. The facility is nowadays divided into three camps as listed below:
Camp 4- Hosts the most compliant prisoners
Camp 5- Hosts prisoners less compliant than those in Camp 4 but less dangerous than those in Camp 6
Camp 6- Hosts the most dangerous prisoners
Camp7- Hosts high-value prisoners
By the time Obama was taking office, there were 300 individuals detained at the facility.
Calls for closure
The main driver behind the closure of the Guantano Bay has been international public outcry linked to the reported use of torture and denying the detainees their right to legal process. As far as torture is concerned, various reports have pointed at the use of extreme heat, cold and water-boarding confession techniques.
In terms of the legal rights of the detainees, the United States had in 2001 indicated that federal courts would have no jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay detainees. George Bush also reiterated that Guantanamo Bay was outside the reach of United States laws.
In this regard, trials that were done at Guantanamo Bay could not be deemed as fair, with some individuals bound to spend their lifetime at the facility without trial. George Bush later ordered that the military commission at the facility conduct full and fair trials but it was later discovered that the presiding officers just made up laws to suit their interests.
Legal implications and congressional actions
Challenges placed in US courts
2001-The Bush administration ruled all detainees at the Guantanamo Bay were could be held indefinitely without trial.
2004-The Supreme Court ruled in Rasul vs Bush that US courts had the jurisdiction to address petitions by Guantanamo Bay Detainees.
2004- The Supreme Court held in Hamdi vs Rumsfeld that US citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay must be given a hearing in front of an impartial judge.
2006-In the case of Hamdi vs Rumsfel the Supreme Court ascertained that the military commissions had violated various elements of the United States and international laws.
The McCain Amendment banned torture and the disrespect of prisoners by American forces. The amendment makes it mandatory for military interrogations to be conducted in compliance with America laws. George Bush signed the amendment into law.
Aspects of the planned closure
- Political asylum-Scholars have argued that individuals that have been cleared of any wrong doing should be released immediately and given political asylum in the United States.
- Working with international community-In 2007 the United States announced that they could not close the Guantanamo Bay without collaborating with the international community. The United States noted that for them to release the prisoners at the facilities, their parent countries must be willing to repatriate them and in some cases assure that the prisoners would be imprisoned without torture.
- Fort Leavenworth-Some scholars have indicated that the Port be closed immediately and the prisoners sent to Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas.
There is no legal structure to handle the complexities that the Guantanamo Bay situation presents. It is, however, clear that the United States needs to close the facility immediately. In this regard, the detainees at the facility need to be classified and the international community urged to hasten repatriation efforts.
As far as classification is concerned, the detainees need to be classified in a systemic manner that will determine their rights. This should be done with respect to the Geneva conventions and the Military commissions Act.
The most comprehensive solution is to permanently close the Guantanamo Bay and transferring the detainees to Fort Leavenworth, together with the creation of an Article 1 Homeland Security Court.