President Obama to make new effort to close Guantanamo Bay after mass hunger strike

Over 100 of 166 inmates now taking part in protest against indefinite detention

President Obama is pledging a new effort to shut down the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay where more than half the inmates are currently on hunger strike, describing the facility at the US military base in Cuba as harmful to US interests and a blight on the country's good name.

At a White House press conference, Mr Obama said he had ordered officials to review the issue, and that he would take it up once more with Congress. The prison, he declared was “contrary to who we are.” It was inefficient, and reduced co-operation with allies on counter-terrorism. “It is a recruitment tool for extremists, it needs to be closed.”

Guantanamo was opened in early 2002, the site deliberately chosen so that foreign terrorist suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere - the  'worst of the worst,' according to the Pentagon at the time - could be held outside the US proper, and thus beyond the purview of the domestic judicial system.

But the prison became so controversial that even President George W. Bush wanted to close it, and Mr Obama came to office in January 2009 vowing to do so within a year. But his every effort to do so, by transferring inmates to the mainland and trying them in civilian courts, was thwarted by Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike.

At the same time, the repatriation of detainees ground to a halt, amid the difficulty of finding countries acceptable to the US willing to take them, and an effective Congressional ban on spending to carry out such transfers. This year the pent-up tensions exploded in the hunger strike, the longest and most widespread in Guantanamo's history.

It began in February, ostensibly after guards mishandled prisoners' Korans. But the underlying reason, according to prisoners and their lawyers, is despair, the sense that they have been left to rot. The last straw appears to have been the State Department announcement in January that it was “re-assigning” the senior official who had been handling the transfers, without replacing him.

The hunger strike has now spread to more than 100 of the 166 remaining inmates, at least 15 of whom are now being force-fed. Meanwhile the military tribunals on which Congress insists has been virtually unworkable. Of the 700-plus individuals who have passed through Guantanamo, only three have been tried and convicted.

Some 30 of the current detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, chief organiser of the 9/11 attacks, will be tried. About 50 others are in a legal no-man's land, deemed too dangerous to release but against whom there is not enough evidence to prosecute. But 86, more than half the total and some of them held for 11 years, were long since cleared for release - but to no avail.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada