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
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Tuesday 30 April 2013
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.
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Tories suspend candidate who said she would never support 'the Jew' Ed Miliband
Bali Nine executions: Indonesia confirms killings of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will go ahead
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supplies the ultim...
£27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...