A formal review has been launched by President Joe Biden’s aides into the infamous U.S. military prison located in Guantanamo Bay. This follows a comment made by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki surrounding the Biden Administrations’ plans to close the prison, Psaki stated that it was “certainly is our goal and our intention.” Reviving a plan which plagued the Presidency of Barack Obama and his own Vice Presidency, Biden inherits another problematic human rights issue from his previous predecessors. Born from the expansion of the national security state under President Bush, the prison has served as a hub of torture, human rights violations and as a key point of condemnation from the international community and human rights groups alike.
With President Obama seeing bipartisan support against his attempts to close the camp, Obama attempted to shrink the prison population. Signing deals with other countries to house prisoners (due to legal hurdles in housing prisoners from Guantanamo in the U.S.), Obama shrunk the population to 40 by the end of his presidency. However, the Trump Administration halted the attempts made by the Obama Administration and signed an executive order keeping the camp open. With this formal review, it seems as if the Biden Administration is moving back towards the Obama Administrations’ approach to the closure of the prison.
As to what this review is to look like, National Security Council Spokeswoman Emily Horne noted that the process will be undertaken by the National Security Council and they “…will work closely with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice to make progress toward closing the GTMO facility, and also in close consultation with Congress.” The launching of the formal review has been largely applauded by human rights groups that have been advocating for the closure of the prison since its early beginnings. Daphne Eviatar, Director of the Security with Human Rights Program at Amnesty International U.S.A. applauded the actions of the Biden Administration noting “We are pleased to hear that the Biden administration wants to review the U.S. policy of almost 20 years of indefinite detention without charge of Muslim men at an offshore prison.” However, Eviatar continued by stating that it has “…long past time to close it down.”
It has been a long time coming as Eviatar makes clear note, which is exactly why we must remain vigilant and skeptical surrounding this move from the Biden Administration. As noted, earlier President Obama promised the closure of the camps during his campaign run in 2008, a move which separated him from the pack perceived as progressive human rights advocate instead of a supporter of the continuation of human rights abuses like his opponent John McCain (who supported Guantanamo) in the 2008 Presidential Election. As we would come to find out in the 8 years of the Obama Administration, a series of political missteps and miscalculations would lead to the camp still being open and housing prisoners by the time his successor would come to power. Whilst the actions of the Biden Administration are a positive move in the right direction, we must always remember the actions of the Obama Administration and remain vigilant on the topic until the prison is finally closed.
As for right now, it is simply a matter of waiting and seeing what the Biden Administrations’ actions will be and how long it will take for the current President to fulfil the goals of his former boss and shut down the prison. There is talk of potential executive action that will be taken by President Biden according to aides involved in internal discussions according to Reuters, this will potentially come in the coming weeks or months. As was said before we must remain vigilant and keep advocating for the closure of the prison, the Biden Administration must be held to account for its promise and time will tell if it lives up to the said promise.
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