New Beginnings in a New Year
At the beginning of his first term in office, President Obama issued an Executive Order calling for the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. However, five years later, the detention center is still open but after many hurdles and stalemates it seems that there is new momentum pushing for the closure of Guantanamo.
After months of deliberation, President Obama signed H.R. 3304, the National Defense Authorization Act last month. This bill, a product of long negotiations, is landmark legislation for many reasons, and perhaps the most discussed are the provisions regarding Guantanamo.
In a statement following his signing of the bill, President Obama commended Congress on Section 1035, which will streamline the transfer process of detainees from Guantanamo to a third party nation or their home country. The president criticized the two preceding sections (1033 and 1034) which extend transfer restrictions already in place. Despite divergent approaches on how to handle the detainee population and the facilities at Guantanamo, that the news came during the holiday season indicates a new commitment in 2014.
And, it looks like this commitment was confirmed as we say our last goodbyes to 2013: on Tuesday morning, the last three Uighers at Guantanamo were released and transferred to Slovakia. The three men have each spent twelve years in detention. Their transfer brings the detainee population to 155; nine men have been released since the beginning of December.
These are important and optimistic steps forward, and I hope that 2014 will be a defining year on the road to the eventual closure of Guantanamo.