Amnesty: 'final plea' to Obama to close Gitmo

Ahead of the 15th anniversary of the first detainees arriving at Guantánamo Bay iJan. 11, Amnesty International issued a "final plea" to President Obama to close the facility. The open letter (PDF) especially warned that the fate of the remaining detainees must not be left in the hands of the incoming Donald Trump. There are 55 people still held at Guantánamo, 45 of them detained without charge or trial. The 10 others have faced or are facing military commission proceedings that "fail to meet international fair trial standards." Six are currently facing the possibility of the death penalty after such unlawful trials. While the Obama administration has blamed the US Congress for blocking the closure of Guantánamo, Amnesty asserted that under international law domestic legislation or politics are not legitimate excuses for a country's failure to meet its treaty obligations.

Meanwhile, president-elect Trump indicated before the US election that he would keep the Guantánamo detention facility open and "load it up with some bad dudes."

Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: "Eight years ago, President Obama began his presidency by pledging to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. He should end his presidency by fulfilling that promise. Today, it remains a living symbol of US human rights abuses. The vast majority of the people who remain there have never been charged with, let alone tried for, any crime. President-elect Trump has indicated that, instead of closing Guantánamo, he would like to add to the population or attempt a return to large-scale, systematic torture. The urgency is clear: President Obama must not leave Guantánamo to Trump."

Nineteen of the remaining 55 prisoners are cleared for release and could be freed in the final days of Obama's presidency. Amnesty International USA plans to rally in Washington Jan. 11 to demand Obama use his executive powers to override congressional restrictions on moving detainees to the US and close the detention center before Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. (Amnesty International UK, AP, Jan. 10)