Guantanamo prison to stay open for at least 25 years: US admiral

Over the years, roughly 780 people have been detained at Guantanamo, mostly for their alleged ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taleban. PHOTO: AFP

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, CUBA (AFP) - Former president Barack Obama had vowed to close the United States military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but now it will stay open for at least 25 years, the officer in charge of the facility said on Tuesday (Oct 16).

Rear Admiral John Ring said the prison, which holds several alleged plotters of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, is focused on readiness to make "sure that the facilities are going to last for 25 years".

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, reversing his predecessor's ultimately fruitless 2009 directive to shutter the facility that has drawn global scorn.

Following Mr Trump's move, "they told us we are going to be here for 25 years or more", said Rear-Adm Ring, Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

The Pentagon "sent us a memo saying plan to be open" for at least 25 years, Rear-Adm Ring said during a visit regularly organised by the US military for journalists, with the aim of showing that prisoners are treated humanely at the American enclave in communist Cuba's south-east.

In December, the top torture expert at the United Nations said reports from sources indicated at least one inmate was still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said he had received information that torture through noise and vibrations was taking place against Ammar al-Baluchi, a suspected 9/11 plotter.

Mr Melzer voiced particular concern about detainees who had been held for long periods of time in almost complete isolation.

Under president George W. Bush, the military hastily built the prison camp following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Over the years, roughly 780 people have been detained at Guantanamo, mostly for their alleged ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

First under Mr Bush and then under Mr Obama, the US released hundreds of detainees from the prison.

The most notorious inmates, including accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are still awaiting trial but their cases have been beset by legal woes.

Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008, and 40 remain.

Some have never been charged, yet have been deemed too dangerous to release.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump vowed to load Guantanamo with "bad dudes", and later in office, he said Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters would be sent there.

Rear-Adm Ring said that so far there is "no indication" that such new detainees would be transferred soon to Guantanamo.

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