US House backs Guantanamo transfers

Vote to allow suspects to be tried in the US is a key step towards prison's closure.

    Obama has ordered the US prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba closed by January [EPA]

    Series of hurdles

    Obama issued an order on his second day in office that the camp be shut down within a year, but political, legal and diplomatic obstacles have arrested progress towards that target.

    Many politicians in congress have said that they are concerned that housing terrorism suspects in US prisons could encourage attacks against the US mainland.

    The prison camp at Guantanamo has faced global criticism after it emerged that interrogation methods deemed by some rights groups to be torture, were used on inmates there.

    Officials from the Obama administration have said that they want the prison shut as soon as possible, arguing that it stands as a potent recruiting symbol for groups such as al-Qaeda.

    But congress has on several occasions denied granting the administration the funding needed to shut down the centre, which is still holding about 220 inmates.

    Compromise measure

    Congress has argued that it needs to see a detailed plan for the facility's closure first.

    Under the compromise passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, the government can only bring Guantanamo inmates to US soil if they are going to face trial in American courts.

    The Obama administration would also have to present a risk assessment and give 14 days' notice of its attempt to bring an inmate to the US.

    The vote comes as Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, continues his attempt to prevent prisoners held at Guantanamo who are suspected of involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks from being tried in US courts.

    Not all of those held at Guantanamo will face criminal prosecution in the US – some could be tried in US military tribunals at the prison camp, while others who have been cleared may be sent to other countries.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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