Gibbs acknowledges Guantanamo will remain open for foreseeable future

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[JURIST] Detainees will continue to be held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] for the foreseeable future, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs [WP profile] acknowledged [transcript] Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The statement comes almost one year after the Obama administration missed its self-imposed January 2010 deadline [JURIST report] to close the facility. Gibbs also stated that in addition to the use of civilian courts and military commissions [JURIST news archive], some detainees would have to be indefinitely detained:

[T]here are prohibitions legislatively on the transfer of some of the prisoners that are there into some part of this country, some would be tried in federal courts as we’ve seen done in the past, some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from and some regrettably will have to be indefinitely detained, I say regrettably not because it’s a bad thing necessarily for them in terms of the fact that they’re very dangerous people and we have to make sure that even if we can’t prosecute them, we’re not putting them back out on the battlefield.

Gibbs emphasized that the future of Guantanamo Bay hinges on Republican cooperation to close the prison, which would be in the interests of national security, according to Gibbs, due to the facility’s use as a recruiting tool by al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder].

The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including strong opposition from members of Congress. Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives voted 212-206 in favor [JURIST report] of a defense spending bill [HR 3082 materials] including a provision preventing Guantanamo detainees from being transferred to the US for trial. The legislation would block Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the other accused 9/11 conspirators from being tried in a US civilian court, as intended [JURIST report] by US Attorney General Eric Holder. In May, the US House Armed Services Committee [official website] approved legislation [JURIST report] prohibiting the modification or construction of a facility in the US to hold detainees currently held at Guantanamo. The number of detainees at Guantanamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda [JURIST reports].

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