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Obama’s last day in office is latest Guantanamo prison camp deadline

January 20, 2017 - UNITED STATES

From his first days in office in 2009, President Barack Obama vowed to shut the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The latest deadline is his last day in office, but the Republican-led Congress can't stomach the idea. Obama is said to be considering bypassing Congress, raising questions about the future of this 45-square-mile chunk of Cuba. Havana wants every inch of it, but it is also being eyed as a transnational peace park or conservation area.

The U.S. government has used Guantanamo for over 14 years to hold suspected terrorists, many without charge, and a few remain. Both chambers of Congress have repeatedly passed legislation banning any effort to move detainees to the mainland. The White House hasn't ruled out the possibility of the president using executive action to close the camp if an agreement with Congress isn't reached.

Obama argues that keeping the detention centre open is contrary to U.S. values and does not advance the country's national security. He also insists that concerns about their transfer to the U.S. being a terror threat are misplaced. "We're already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States because we threw the book at them," he said recently, "and there have been no incidents."

An article on the history of Guantanamo in New Yorker magazine reported in March that Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont in the United States, and James Kraska, a professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College, have proposed what they call a "third path" for re-purposing the land as "a state-of-the-art marine research institution and peace park" managed jointly by the United States and Cuba.

White House plan to close Guantanamo Bay prison won't change much in Congress (Washington Post 23 Feb 2016)

Guantánamo: From Prison to Marine Conservation Peace Park? (New Yorker 22 Mar 2016)

Obama Announces Plan to Close Controversial Detention Facility (NBC 22 Feb 2016)

Is Obama Serious About Closing Guantánamo? (New Yorker 22 Jan 2016)

Date written/update: 2016-04-20