US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has confirmed the intentions of the administration of President Joe Biden to close the detention camp located in Guantanamo Bay.
"We believe that it should be, that's certainly a goal, but it's something that we'll bring some focus to in the months ahead," Blinken said in an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" on Sunday.
The secretary of state, however, did not specify when Guantanamo is expected to ultimately be closed.
Will the Biden administration close Guantanamo Bay? “We believe that it should be [closed,] that's certainly a goal, but it's something that we'll bring some focus to in the months ahead,” says Secretary of State Antony Blinken. https://t.co/UXZlapLYMX pic.twitter.com/UmfZh01gLv— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) May 2, 2021
In early April, the US Southern Command stated that the once-secret Camp VII, where the highly classified detainees were housed, has been closed, and the remaining detainees have been moved to other facilities.
Despite this, no announcements about the camp's full closure, which once housed over 700 people, most of whom were kept without charges pressed against them, were produced, as the administration continued its policy review.
Over the years, several former and current prisoners have raised issues about detainment conditions and treatment in the prison. They claimed that they were routinely tortured, sexually abused, drugged and persecuted by the camp guards for their religious beliefs, although none of them allegedly were formally charged.
The US Supreme Court, meanwhile, announced this week that it will hear the case of terrorist suspect prison inmate Abu Zubaydah, who alleged that he was tortured by CIA contractors at a facility, a so-called black site, in Poland after he was captured in 2002 for alleged links with al-Qaeda* and its leader, Osama bin Laden. The assertion that Zubaydah was among the terrorist group's top members turned out to be false, as the CIA concluded by 2006 that he had not even been a member.
Despite his innocence, the US military has held him imprisoned at the Guantanamo prison and torture site ever since, with no hope of release.
Zubaydah also filed a lawsuit with the UN, saying he was held in illegal detention and tortured in secret CIA interrogation centers in Thailand, Poland, Morocco, Lithuania, Afghanistan, and the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
In February, the United Nations said that the Biden administration's review of the Guantanamo Bay detention center must ensure that remedies are provided for detainees that have been tortured there. The remaining 40 detainees at the detention center are now elderly individuals affected by physical and psychological torture, the UN said, adding that Washington must ensure it never repeats the same practices again and that crimes committed at the detention center do not remain unpunished.
Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo more than 10 years ago. But Obama's intentions were unsuccessful, as Congress refused to provide funds for a prison shut down, and his administration was met with fierce resistance from the Pentagon. His successor, Donald Trump, canceled Obama's decree and signed an order to keep it open indefinitely.
At the same time, new prisoners have not been brought to Guantanamo.
Overall, a total of 775 prisoners have been kept in Guantanamo, the vast majority of them never appeared before a court.
*Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia and many other states.