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article imageOp-Ed: January 22nd is 5th anniversary of Obama order to shut Guantanamo

By Ken Hanly     Jan 22, 2014 in Politics
Washington - On January 22, 2009 President Obama signed an executive order that the United States Detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Cuba be closed no later than January 22, 2010.
Five years later Guantanamo is still open and it is not clear when it will actually be closed. Until a mass hunger strike in 2013 there seemed little urgency to close the facility. There have been a few detainees released since then and some easing of congressional blocking of transfers.
Of course, many detainees have been in Guantanamo not just five years but over a decade. Mahmud al-Mujahid has been at Guantanamo since January 11, 2002 when it first opened. Just this month the executive ruled that his "continued law of war detention" was "no longer necessary". Many of those cleared for transfer come from Yemen but Obama has yet to release any in spite of demands from Yemen that he do so and protests against their continued imprisonment.
Habeas corpus is useless at Guantanamo, although in 2008 six years after the prison opened the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees were entitled to a "prompt hearing" to decide the lawfulness of their detention. Prompt can mean years after apprehension and even if the detention is ruled unlawful this does not mean that the person will be released.
More than five years ago three Chinese Uighur detainees were declared to have been illegally detained. Just last month they were finally released to Slovakia. While the US refuses to allow any detainees to be released into the US mainland they expect other countries to do so. Meanwhile US operatives who have committed crimes such as torture and rendition against Guantanamo detainees remain free of any punishment.
In just a few weeks the US will appear before the UN Human Rights Committee established under that International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Covenant prohibits arbitrary detention, and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It also guarantees the right to a fair trial and determination of lawfulness of detention. Guantanamo certainly does not meet those standards.
Four years ago the US State Department legal advisor claimed that the Obama administration's relationship to international law would be to apply "universal standards not double standards". Guantanamo shows that this is not true. The US criticizes other countries for failing to meet international standards but not itself.
A month after signing the executive order in 2009, in his first State of the Union address Obama told Americans he had ordered the closure of the base and justice for captured terrorists. Obama has not mentioned Guantanamo in the annual speech since. Recently 31 retired US generals have urged Obama to close the base.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Guantanamo bay, War on Terror, Indefinite detention
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