Officials in Washington say the U.S. government is preparing to detain indefinitely nearly 50 alleged terrorists now held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
An executive order being prepared for review by President Barack Obama says that Guantanamo Bay prisoners kept in “prolonged detention” will not be put on trial. Each case will be reviewed periodically, U.S. officials said late Tuesday, and the detainees are expected to be able to mount legal challenges to their incarceration.
A White House official told VOA Tuesday night that the plan under consideration will have clear, lawful and fair procedures, and a thorough review process, “so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.”
Of the 174 prisoners still held at Guantanamo, a U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba, U.S. officials are said to have decided that at least 48 should be held indefinitely. No prisoners’ identities were released.
U.S. officials speaking about the new detention policy late Tuesday stressed that they were discussing a draft proposal to be put before the president, and that further changes could be introduced.
Mr. Obama’s administration has long signaled that the use of prolonged detention, preferably at a facility in the United States, is one element of the president’s plan to close the prison facilities at Guantanamo.
In one of his first actions after being sworn in as president in January 2009, Mr. Obama pledged to close the controversial military facility within a year. However, his proposal was quickly opposed by members of Congress concerned that dangerous detainees could be brought to U.S. soil to stand trial, then be released on technicalities.
In a speech last year, delivered at the National Archives in the nation’s capital, President Obama said the Guantanamo prison has tarnished the nation’s moral authority in the world. He said then that a way must be found to provide defensible and lawful standards for suspects deemed too dangerous to be released, but who cannot be tried.