Monday March 18, 2019
Home Lead Story Guantanamo Pr...

Guantanamo Prison Emerge As Option For IS Fighters

Trump had said in his first State of the Union last year that he would use Guantanamo "in many cases" to detain prisoners as part of the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaida.

0
//
Gauntanamo Bay
The entrance to Camp VI detention facility is guarded at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Nov. 20, 2013. VOA

The Guantanamo Bay detention center would receive new prisoners for the first time in more than a decade under one option being considered as the U.S. withdraws its forces from Syria and works to resolve the fate of hundreds of captured suspected Islamic State fighters, officials say.

U.S.-backed Syrian fighters have custody of nearly 1,000 suspected IS fighters who the State Department said should be sent back to their home countries and prosecuted. The Syrian fighters have warned they may not be able to continue to hold the IS fighters after the withdrawal of American forces from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump in December.

If they can’t be repatriated, though, the detention center on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be used to hold them “where lawful and appropriate,” the State Department said Thursday.

“The Administration’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism makes very clear that Law of Armed Conflict detention, including at Guantanamo, remains an important and effective counterterrorism tool,” it said in a statement to The Associated Press in response to questions about the prisoners.

FILE - President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 30, 2018.
President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 30, 2018. VOA

Trump had said in his first State of the Union last year that he would use Guantanamo “in many cases” to detain prisoners as part of the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaida. As a candidate, when asked about what he would do with the controversial detention center, he said he would “load it up with some bad dudes.”

But the administration has not added any prisoners to the detention center that President Barack Obama sought to close, and officials say that sending suspected Islamic State fighters back to their homelands remains the preferred choice.

“Repatriating foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin and ensuring they are prosecuted and detained is the best solution to prevent them from returning to the battlefield,” the State Department said.

A U.S. official said Guantanamo is the “option of last resort.” The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. has identified about 50 people among the more than 900 held by Syrian forces as “high value” suspects that could be transported to Guantanamo if they are not repatriated.

Legal issues

Sending Islamic State prisoners to Guantanamo would open up new legal challenges, according to experts.

U.S.
the administration has not added any prisoners to the detention center that President Barack Obama sought to close, and officials say that sending suspected Islamic State fighters back to their homelands remains the preferred choice. Pixabay

The U.S. is allowed to detain al-Qaida and “associated forces” at Guantanamo under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. But whether Islamic State group fighters meets that criteria is an untested question, said Robert Chesney, a national security law professor at the University of Texas.

“No court has ever once had the case and the executive branch for many years has really not wanted the court to answer that question,” Chesney said.

The U.S. began holding prisoners suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban in January 2002, drawing intense international criticism for holding men indefinitely without charge amid reports of mistreatment at the isolated base on the southeastern tip of Cuba.

Prison size

Guantanamo held nearly 700 prisoners at its peak in the summer of 2003. Amid legal challenges and international pressure, more than 500 were released under President George W. Bush. Obama viewed the detention center as a waste of money that damaged America’s reputation and ordered it closed, but was blocked by Congress.

Also Read: Supreme Court Directs Louisiana from Enforcing New Regulations on Abortion Clinics

There are now 40 prisoners held, including nine who have been charged and are facing trial by military commission in proceedings that have dragged on for years.

From a purely practical standpoint, U.S. military officials have said they could accommodate additional prisoners at the base.

The forces overseeing Guantanamo prison say the prison can hold 40 more people “with no additional staffing” and the facility could accommodate 200 more inmates total, “with minimal adjustments to current infrastructure and manpower,” said Navy Cdr. Adam Bashaw, a spokesman for the military task force that runs the detention center. (VOA)

Next Story

White House Condemns Any Link of President Donald Trump to Accused New Zealand Shooter

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying "both sides" were to blame and that there were "fine people" on both sides of the protest.

0
U.S.
In this Jan. 2, 2019, file photo White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington. VOA

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Donald Trump
The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists. VOA

Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but did not support his policies.

The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” He said he had not seen the manifesto.

Mulvaney said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” he said.

Donald Trump
“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.” VOA
Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be” and the key to his prison cell thrown away.

Also Read: Did You Know? IOM States Latin America as World’s Deadliest Route for Migrants

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.” (VOA)