Limited number of Guantanamo inmates to 'be moved to Illinois'
The Obama administration said it will move some Guantanamo detainees to an Illinois prison.
The Obama administration said on Tuesday it will move some Guantanamo Bay detainees to an Illinois prison.
Human rights groups and others have harshly criticised the prison that has undermined the reputation of the United States worldwide because of its illegal position. Many prisoners have been held for years without charges, and rights groups say U.S. forces have commited torture, abuse and renditon.
A letter from President Barack Obama's top national security aides said the U.S. government will proceed with buying the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois "to house a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo" as well as other federal inmates.
"Not only will this help address the urgent overcrowding problem at our nation's Federal prisons, but it will also help achieve our goal of closing the detention center at Guantanamo in a timely, secure, and lawful manner," said the letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, among others.
When Obama took office in January, he gave himself one year to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. naval detention camp prison opened in 2002 after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to house foreign "suspects".
But Republicans and others criticized his administration's plans to transfer the what they claim "terrorism suspects" to the United States and try them in civilian courts as a security risk.
Congress enacted a law barring Guantanamo detainees from being brought onto U.S. soil except if they were going to be prosecuted. Democrats, who control both houses of Congress, are planning to lift that restriction if the administration comes up with an acceptable plan for dealing with the prisoners.
Republicans quickly signaled their opposition.
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Republican ranking member Lamar Smith of Texas said the move would give "...terrorist enemy combatants access to the same rights as U.S. citizens."
Human rights groups say the commissions violate detainees' legal rights and remain unconvinced by the administration's promise to refer as many cases as possible to civilian courts.
The administration's letter said the Defense Department would operate a part of the prison, located in a rural area west of Chicago, devoted to housing the Guantanamo detainees.
"The security of the facility and the surrounding region is our paramount concern," it said.
The facility was built in 2001 to maximum security specifications, and after acquisition it will be enhanced to exceed security standards at the country's only "supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado, where there has never been an escape or external attack, the letter said.
Quinn and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who were being briefed at the White House on the decision, praised it in a statement on Tuesday.
Reuters Last Mod: 16 Aralık 2009, 10:59