The US military has closed a maximum-security detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, an official said Thursday, as the controversial prison’s population continues to dwindle.
Guantanamo’s Camp 5 lockup, built in 2004 at a cost of $17 million, closed August 19 and will be converted into a medical center with a psychiatric wing for detainees, facility spokesman Navy Captain John Filostrat said.
Only a “handful” of detainees had remained at Camp 5 after 15 inmates were transferred to the United Arab Emirates last month, the biggest single release under President Barack Obama
The closure is the start of a process to fully shutter the military prison in Cuba which has been at the centre of controversial reports of torture and indefinite detention. At its peak, the complex housed about 700 inmates.
Obama has pushed for Guantanamo’s closure since taking office in 2009, but his efforts were thwarted by Republican lawmakers, many of whom saw it as a useful tool in combating terror. During a White House address back in February, Obama defended his plans, saying that the facility fed into anti-US, jihadist propaganda.
“I don’t want to pass this problem on [to] the next president, whoever it is. Are we going to let this linger on for another 15 years?” he said. “Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law.”
For the first time in 14 years both the population of the military base and the prison will go down at the same time. By the end of 2016, the number of soldiers on the base will be cut by 400.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)