WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law America’s annual defence policy bill, but he blasted provisions that ensure the Guantanamo Bay prison will stay open for now.
One of Obama’s first actions as president was to order the closure of the prison facility in Cuba, set up 13 years ago under president George W. Bush, but he has been thwarted by domestic and international obstacles.
Obama said he signed the defence policy bill, known as HR 3979, because it provides “vital benefits for military personnel and their families, as well as critical contingency authorities needed to counter the Islamic State” group and other emerging threats.
But he criticised the law for including provisions that bar the United States from building or modifying any prison facilities to house the Guantanamo inmates.
“As I have said many times, the continued operation of this detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners and emboldening violent extremists.
Closing the detention facility is a national imperative,” Obama said in a statement.
“Instead of removing unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that curtail the executive branch’s options for managing the detainee population, this bill continues them.”
Six years after Obama was elected having made a campaign promise to close the prison, 136 detainees still remain, 67 of whom have been cleared for release by either the Bush or Obama administrations.