US president Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to keep the notorious US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, in Cuba, open, and suggested he would be sending new prisoners there.
The decision is a direct reversal of former president Barack Obama’s decision to close the controversial base, and a major blow to campaigners for the release of the remaining 41 prisoners held there.
Trump announced his backing for the new policy during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, saying that he had told secretary of defence James Mattis to “re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay”.
“I am asking Congress to ensure that in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them. And In many cases for them it will now be Guantánamo bay,” he said.
The executive order, which called the camp “legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law”, also said, “The United States may transport additional detainees to US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay when lawful and necessary to protect the Nation.”
“There is significant reason for concern regarding their reengagement in hostilities should they have the opportunity,” the order said.
“In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield – including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi,” said Trump.
Obama signed an order in 2009 to close the camp within a year, but the order was left unfulfilled, as Congress refused to allow prisoners from the camp to be detained on US soil.