The White House on Tuesday pledged to move ahead with the transfer of 19 detainees out of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, rejecting President-elect Donald Trump’s demand for a freeze.
With President Barack Obama set to leave office on 20 January, White House spokesman Josh Earnest put Trump on notice that more inmates would be moved.
“I would expect, at this point, additional transfers,” he said.
There are 59 prisoners remaining at the controversial detention center, only a handful of whom have started moving through the military tribunals, including the alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks.
Most of the others are in legal limbo. The US has deemed them too dangerous to release, but has failed to acquire enough evidence for court, making them indefinitely detained.
Earnest’s comments come just hours after Trump said Guantanamo Bay should remain open.
Trump has vowed to “load (Guantanamo) up with some bad dudes” once he is in office.
The White House pointedly responded, when asked if Trump’s position would impact Obama’s thinking, “No, it will not,” Earnest said.
“He will have an opportunity to implement the policy that he believes is most effective when he takes office on January 20,” he added.
Trump’s declaration is the latest in a series of public disputes between Obama and the outspoken Republican president-elect, who has jettisoned the notion that there is “one president at a time”.
Obama came to office vowing to shutter the facility, saying detention without trial did not reflect American values.
In mid-November, after Donald Trump was elected, Obama expressed regret that he hadn’t been able to shut down the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay during his eight years in office. He blamed the GOP-controlled Congress for his failure to “close the darn thing”.
Obama has run up against political and legal hurdles, Pentagon foot-dragging and stubborn Republican opposition in Congress.
With Guantanamo’s closure blocked, Obama’s White House has focused on whittling down the number of inmates.
George W. Bush had released or transferred around 500 inmates before leaving office. Obama has released or transferred around 179.[Source: Middle East Eye]