Four years ago President Obama promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The detention is still open with detainees who may be kept there indefinitely without trial or charges being brought against them.
The White House insists they are committed to closing Guantanamo but all signs indicate that it will stay open indefinitely. A State Department office that was to find places for detainees who are no longer regarded as a threat has been closed. A new Pentagon plan would see the expenditure of $150 million to modernize it as it is literally falling apart. There have been no attempts to close the facility lately and the issue was not even mentioned in Obama's inauguration speech. The overhaul would include a new dining hall, hospital, and barracks for guards.
Faced with continued detention with no relief in sight many detainees are engaging in hunger strikes. Lawyers for the detainees say that over 100 detainees are on a hunger strike protesting mistreatment and the confiscation of Korans. General John Kelly, the head of the US Southern Command, said the number was much smaller. He also said that claims of mistreatment were nonsense and that the detainees were just frustrated by apparently being held for life without charges or access to courts. No doubt the frustrations are genuine enough and hardly nonsense. The situation must be especially frustrating for those who have been categorized as no longer a danger and could be released except that they have nowhere to go.
Kelly said that the inmates were devastated that Obama's pledge to close the facility has come to naught: .“They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated, apparently… when the president backed off -- at least their perception -- of closing the facility.He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech.He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. He has said nothing about it. He's not -- he's not restaffing the office that… looks at closing the facility.” David Remes a defense lawyer representing detainees said: “Gitmo seems to be the one place they don’t care about spending money.They will spare no expense to keep these men there rather than bring them to the United States.”
In spite of the sequester cuts to defense spending, plans for the Guantanamo upgrade are going ahead. Guantanamo is the most expensive US prison by far with an operating budget this year of almost $177 million. This works out to be over one million for each of the 166 detainees remaining in the prison. General Kelly has signed off on projects that include, a $10.8 million "communications network facility" to store data including computer records and tapes of interrogations. There will also be a $12 million dollar dining hall for troops and a new $11.2 million hospital and medical units.
Kellly pointed out that costs were very high because of the location of Guantanamo at the eastern end of Cuba. The costs to US reputation in retaining a prison where there are no rights to a trial or access to courts are no longer counted in deciding policy.
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