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US Defense Bill Extends Gitmo Through 2020, Blocks Prisoner Transfers

© AP Photo / Lynne Sladky, FileA detainee from Afghanistan is led by military police with his hands chained at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this Feb. 2, 2002, file photo
A detainee from Afghanistan is led by military police with his hands chained at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this Feb. 2, 2002, file photo - Sputnik International
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base’s notorious detention facility for terror suspects will continue to prohibit detainees from receiving medical care or prosecution within the US, according to a recently-passed law.

Provisions outlined in the new National Defense Authorization Act signed into law on December 20 by US President Donald Trump bar the use of government funds to conduct a shutdown of the US’ detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a Thursday report by Military.com

The defense spending bill’s prohibition, which runs through December 31, 2020, also blocks the transfer of detainees to the US for medical treatment and/or prosecution. 

This move by Washington comes over a decade after then-US President Barack Obama issued an executive order in January 2009 which called for the shuttering of Guantanamo Bay within a year. The 44th president’s attempt was ultimately blocked by Congress. However, Obama was successful in 197 international transfers of detainees from Guantanamo Bay during his tenure, according to US-based international human rights organization Human Rights First. Trump has transferred one detainee to their home country since entering office in 2016. 

A total of 40 of the approximately 780 prisoners detained in the facility since its January 2002 opening remain there. 

Gitmo has been at the center of media scrutiny and continued to raise eyebrows earlier this year after Rear Adm. John C. Ring was fired just one day after openly criticizing Washington’s policy regarding the terrorist detainment center.  

"Unless America's policy changes, at some point we'll be doing some sort of end of life care here," he told reporters with the New York Times, noting that many of the detainees have middle-age health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain and sleep apnoea. 

Though Col. Amanda Azubuike, a spokeswoman for US Southern Command, which oversees the Guantanamo Bay prison, did not reveal the explicit reason behind Ring’s firing back in April and initial rumors speculated that he was dismissed due to his comments to the media, Adm. Craig Faller, SOUTHCOM’s commander, issued a followup statement on the matter in September. 

According to the statement from Faller obtained by the Navy Times, he personally fired Ring following an internal probe which found that the official “mishandled or directed the mishandling of classified information, made inaccurate reports and created a poor command climate.” 

Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, the naval flight student who killed three individuals and wounded others at US Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6, referenced Gitmo in his alleged manifesto, citing the detention center as an example of how “America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.” 

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