Obama cabinet members discuss Guantanamo closure in Senate committee

[JURIST] US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profiles] addressed questions [video] about the specific plans for closing the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility before the US Senate Committee on Appropriations [official website] on Thursday. Gates and Clinton presented the FY 2009 Supplemental Request, which included requests for $50 million for the Department of Defense (DOD) and $30 million for the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] to facilitate Guantanamo's closure. Appropriations chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) [official website; opening statement, PDF] along with Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) [official websites] raised questions about the specifics of the Guantanamo plan. The additional $30 million for the DOJ will supplement the review of all the detainee files to determine which of about 250 detainees can be transferred to other countries, and which can be tried in an Article III court, or in a military commission. Gates indicated that 50-100 detainees may not be able to be cleared for release. Gates also conceded there is not yet a specific plan for the DOD funds, saying the "plug in the budget for $50 million [is] a hedge that would allow us to get started if some construction is needed to accommodate those detainees." The US is still considering accepting some of the cleared detainees [JURIST report], like the Uighurs [JURIST news archive], to demonstrate to other countries whom the US is petitioning for assistance that they present no real danger. Many communities, such as Kansas, have already expressed strong opposition to receiving any of the detainees. Clinton added that the Department of State (DOS) [official website] is working intensively with other countries to "try to convince them to take back some of their own nationalities' detainees, and perhaps others" but that the numbers will be contingent on the DOJ review.

Earlier this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said that the US has cleared 30 Guantanamo Bay detainees for release and will begin formally requesting [JURIST report] that European countries accept them within weeks. In March, top officials from the Obama administration met with leaders from the European Union (EU) [official website] to discuss preliminary plans to transfer [JURIST report] Guantanamo Bay detainees to European countries. Individual member states have also indicated their openness to accepting detainees, including Lithuania, Ireland, Germany, and Portugal [JURIST reports]. Other states have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, including Poland and Spain, while Italy [JURIST reports] and the Netherlands [AFP report] have said they will not accept detainees.

 

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