Guantánamo Bay continues to be open. This week, strain ramped as much as shut it : NPR - News6t

Guantánamo Bay continues to be open. This week, strain ramped as much as shut it : NPR

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On this handout photograph offered by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy Police guard detainees in orange jumpsuits on Jan. 11, 2002 at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. Navy/Getty Photos


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On this handout photograph offered by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy Police guard detainees in orange jumpsuits on Jan. 11, 2002 at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. Navy/Getty Photos

It was 22 years in the past this week that the U.S. opened a army jail in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to carry suspected terrorists after the 9/11 assaults.

That jail stays open at the moment.

It nonetheless holds 30 males, lots of whom have by no means been criminally charged, and there has nonetheless been no 9/11 trial.

So this week, a gaggle of nearly 100 advocacy organizations sent a letter to President Biden urging him to lastly shut the ability.

One in all them is the Heart for Victims of Torture. Its director of world coverage and advocacy, Scott Roehm, talks to NPR’s Sacha Pfeiffer about why the jail continues to be open, and what’s occurring with the long-awaited 9/11 trial.

This interview has been frivolously edited for size and readability.

Interview highlights

Sacha Pfeiffer: Resistance to closing Guantánamo has usually been Republican-led, however that is fading the additional away we get from 9/11. So why do you assume the Biden administration hasn’t made closing Gitmo extra of a precedence?

Scott Roehm: I believe it is largely been an absence of braveness and an absence of precedence. There weren’t almost sufficient transfers out of Guantánamo. The administration launched a handful of males earlier within the yr, after which the transfers stopped. These are males that all the businesses within the U.S. authorities with a big nationwide safety operate have agreed, unanimously, needs to be launched. They not must proceed to be held. Their detention would not serve a nationwide safety goal. Normally, these selections had been made years in the past.

Pfeiffer: We must always word that these are also known as “endlessly prisoners” — individuals held in indefinite detention even when, as you stated, they’re typically cleared for launch, however nonetheless are held as a result of the administration is looking for nations to take them, so that they languish.

Roehm: That is proper. I believe it is onerous to think about that the State Division could not discover a single nation on the planet prepared to obtain a few of these cleared-for-release males. And so it seems they’re persevering with to languish at Guantánamo as a result of that is what senior-most administration officers selected to do.

A U.S. Military soldier stands on the entrance to Camp Delta the place detainees from the U.S. battle in Afghanistan stay on April 7, 2004 in Guantánamo Bay.

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Pfeiffer: One huge impediment to closing Guantánamo is these “endlessly prisoners” languishing despite the fact that they have been cleared for launch. One other huge impediment is that the 9/11 trial is hopelessly gridlocked — years and years of pretrial proceedings that many individuals assume won’t ever result in a trial. There had been settlement talks underway to attempt to get the defendants to plead responsible in return for all times in jail — what we assumed can be life in jail. However final summer season, the Biden administration derailed that course of by rejecting some proposed situations of the deal. What did you assume while you heard that?

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Roehm: This has been known as crucial prison case in U.S. historical past. And but, for 16 years, the case has been spinning its wheels haplessly, this type of rusty hamster wheel of injustice. And it is nonetheless years away even from a trial. A plea settlement is, realistically, the one technique to resolve the case with some measure of justice and finality for sufferer members of the family at this level, and that is as a result of the prosecution is constructed largely on quicksand. Nearly all the authorities’s proof that it might use with the intention to convict the boys relies on torture.

Why did the administration reject a plea deal? As with most issues Guantánamo, the reply might be political. Extra particularly, I might guess a worry that there can be some public opposition to a plea settlement. If that is the explanation, it’s as misguided as it’s disheartening. There’ll at all times be blended response to something that includes Guantánamo. There cannot be excellent options to closing a spot that is been so damaged in so many complicated methods for therefore lengthy. It actually comes right down to the administration mustering some braveness to make good on the president’s promise.

A cell guard tower stands over a Guantánamo Bay camp.

John Moore/Getty Photos


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Pfeiffer: Scott, three earlier presidents haven’t shut down Guantánamo. How hopeful — or not — are you that your letter will truly affect the Biden administration’s decision-making on Guantánamo?

Roehm: I definitely hope it would. If that is the trail we’re on, then I am pessimistic. But it surely would not must be the trail we’re on. This might change tomorrow, and I am hopeful that it’s going to. And we’ll do all the things we will to attempt to persuade the administration that that is the fitting factor to do.

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