Trump announces decision to overturn Obama's decision to close Guantanamo Bay at State of the Union

The prison currently houses 41 inmates 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 31 January 2018 03:19
Donald Trump pledges to keep Guantanamo Bay open at the State of the Union

Donald Trump has signed an executive order to reverse Barack Obama’s attempt to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

One of the first thing Mr Obama did when he entered the White House in 2009 was to sign an executive order undertaking to close the controversial prison, located on a US military base on the tip of Cuba.

While Mr Obama was able to reduce the number of prisoners at the camp – today, just 41 remain – he was unable to make good with his vow, largely because of opposition from Congress.

Guantanamo release: Former Afghan detainees' families relieved

Just as Mr Trump started his address, the White House announced that he had signed his own executive order that reversed Mr Obama’s plan, a step he too had said he would take during the presidential election campaign. The announcement marks a formal reversal of his predecessor’s policy.

Mr Trump later said: “In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield - including the Isis leader, al-Baghdadi.

“I just signed, prior to walking in, an order directing Secretary Mattis….to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay.”

President George W Bush opened Guantanamo in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11 to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants, gathered from the battlegrounds in Afghanistan.

It was subsequently used to handle prisoners that were seized as part of his so-called war on terror. Many were held for years without trial. At its peak in 2003, it held up to 800 detainees.

The new order says the US maintains the option to detain additional enemy combatants at the detention centre when necessary.

It requires the Defence Secretary to recommend criteria for determining the fate of individuals captured by the United States in armed conflict, including sending them to Guantanamo Bay.

“The executive order preserves a vital tool to protect the United States and its citizens from continuing significant threats,” the White House said.

“The detention of enemies captured in an armed conflict is a lawful and necessary tool of war-fighting that must continue to be available to the United States.”

Reports said Mr Trump has the backing of a vocal group of prominent Republicans, including senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, both of whom believe terror suspects should be tried through the military commission process rather than in civil court.

The Trump administration has initiated criminal prosecution for several suspected ISIS fighters since taking office in 2017, according to The Hill.

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