US President Barack Obama [official website] said Tuesday that 2014 should be the year to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the US shifts away from a "permanent war footing." Obama first pledged to close the detention center five years ago, despite political opposition, and urged congress during his annual State of the Union address [transcript], for further action to help him do so. "With the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay," Obama said. "Because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world." The president did not say how he intends to close the internationally condemned detention center. One hundred and fifty-five prisoners remain at Guantanamo, where they have been held without trial.
The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] has raised humanitarian concerns internationally, and in recent months the US has grappled [JURIST op-ed] with the complexities of the laws of war and the legal rights of due process for detainees. Last week, Amnesty International released a statement demanding [JURIST report] the US close Guantanamo, calling the prison's continued operation a "prime example of the USA's double standard on human rights." Also last week the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a lower court was correct in dismissing the claim for damages brought by Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak Al Janko, a former Guantanamo detainee, on jurisdictional grounds. Earlier in January the panel review board (PRB) administered by the US Department of Defense (DOD) under Executive Order 13567 [text] concluded its first review and cleared [JURIST report] a former Guantanamo detainee for transfer to Yemen. A week prior three Uighur Muslim detainees were transferred to Slovakia and in December of last year two Guantanamo detainees were transferred [JURIST reports] to Saudi Arabia. Also last December the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed [JURIST report] a denial of a writ of habeas corpus for a Guantanamo detainee.