A group of 75 House Democrats has sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to fulfill a campaign promise and ”take the steps necessary to finally close the prison … once and for all.”
The legislators argued that the prison’s continued operation is ”a stain on our international reputation and undermines our ability to advocate for human rights and the rule of law.”
There are currently 39 detainees remaining at the Guantanamo Bay facility. Of those, 11 have been charged with war crimes, according to a The Conservative Digest story last month. The detention center was opened in 2002 by then President George W. Bush. At its peak in the nearly 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and during the invasion of Afghanistan, the prison held more than 600 men.
The Biden White House has taken a low-profile approach in efforts to close the facility. Years ago, President Barack Obama made the closure a significant policy issue, but was met with fierce opposition from Congress. New attempts at closing the facility are being led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who organized the letter, alongside Reps. David Price of North Carolina and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
The letter states, ”The prison at Guantanamo represents a fundamental betrayal of our values. You have our full support in your efforts to close the prison once and for all.”
The Washington Examiner points out that a significant challenge to closing the facility is the current statute that prevents the release of Guantanamo prisoners into the United States. A House version of the National Defense Authorization Act would remove this hurdle. However, the Senate version does not have any language to change or overturn the previous position.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month during a human rights discussion in Paris that the administration is working on individual cases for the Guantanamo detainees who have not been charged with crimes. He said it is “not easy” to find countries that will welcome the prisoners or guarantee that their rights will be protected in other nations.