The Biden administration on Feb. 12 launched a review of the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine the facility's fate over the next four years. White House spokespersons told reporters that the administration is considering an executive action to close the prison camp by the end of Biden's term. When asked whether the administration would close the prison within that timeframe, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki replied, "That certainly is our goal and our intention." National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne reaffirmed this goal, saying, "We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantánamo."
The Supreme Court on June 10 denied certiorari in the case of Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, a Yemeni who has been held as an "enemy combatant" at Guantánamo since 2002. Al-Alwi was captured in Pakistan in late 2001, and the government concluded that he had fought in Afghanistan as part of a Qaeda-commanded unit. Al-Alwi denied this unsuccessfully during his original round of habeas corpus proceedings, and in 2015 initiated a new habeas case arguing that the nature of US involvement in Afghanistan had changed such that the use of military detention is no longer justified under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The district court and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit disagreed, and the Supreme Court has now declined to review the appellate court's conclusion.
Amnesty International on Jan. 10 called the Guantánamo Bay prison camp a "stain on human rights," on the eve of the facility's seventeenth anniversary. Guantánamo prison currently holds 40 detainees, many of whom were tortured by the CIA before being transferred to the facility. Some of these detainees have been cleared for transfer for years, but still remain at the facility. Some have been waiting for transfer as far back as 2010. Since its opening, the Guantánamo facility has housed around 800 prisoners, many without formal charges or due process.
The European Court of Human Rights on May 31 found that Lithuania and Romania violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (PDF) by allowing secret CIA prisons to operate on their territory. Lithuania had allowed the CIA to open a "black site" on where agents subjected the applicant, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn AKA Abu Zubaydah, to "ill-treatment and arbitrary detention." Lithuania must pay Husayn 130,000 euros (over $150,000). The applicant in the Romania case, Abd al-Rahim Husseyn Muhammad al-Nashiri, was transported to a "black site" on that country's territory, and faced capital charges in the US. The court censured Romania for transferring al-Nashiri to the US when it was likely he would face the death penalty. Romania must pay the applicant 100,000 euros (over $115,000). Both men remain interned at Guantánamo Bay.
The Trump administration has yet to repatriate Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, effectively missing the Feb. 20 deadline established in his 2014 plea deal. Darbi pleaded guilty and admitted (PDF) to involvement in al-Qaeda operations including the 2002 attack on a French-flagged oil tanker near Yemen. In his pre-trial agreement (PDF), it was determined that, contingent on his cooperation, he would be sent back to Saudi Arabia to serve the duration of his sentence. Feb. 20 marked four years from the close of the deal and Darbi was not repatriated to Saudi Arabia.
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 30 to continue operations at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. The order states that the facility is "legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law." Trump's new executive order not only allows for those detained currently to remain detained, but also allows for the US to transport new persons to the facility when lawful and necessary. Trump's order revokes the 2009 order from then-president Barack Obama that was intended to close the facility at Guantánamo and transfer detainees to other detention facilities, their home countries or to a third country. There are currently 41 detainees in custody at Guantánamo.
Military judge James Pohl ruled Jan. 19 that no wrongdoing occurred when he authorized the destruction of a CIA secret prison, or "black site," despite the fact that a protection order was in effect on any remains from the CIA black sites. Prosecutors, citing national security powers, obtained permission from the judge to give defense attorneys photographs and a diagram of the site as a substitute for preservation the actual facility. According to Pohl, defense attorneys failed to show that "the physical evidence is of such central importance to an issue that is essential to a fair trial, or that there is no adequate substitute for the physical evidence." According to the Miami Herald, from 2002-2006, prisoners at the black site were subjected to waterboarding, sexual abuse, and other forms of torture.
Eleven Guantánamo inmates filed a writ of habeas corpus (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Jan. 11, claiming that their indefinite detention is due to President Donald Trump's anti-Muslim stance. The inmates argue they can only be legally kept at Guantánamo if their individual circumstances show that they would otherwise return to the battlefield. However, the suit claims that Trump's declaration that all Guantánamo inmates will remain in the prison camp does not take into account any of their individual circumstances, but instead is based on Trump's antipathy toward Muslims. Some of the petitioners have been at Guantánamo for the entirety of its 16 years in use as a prison. Two of the detainees were in the process of being cleared for release under the Obama administration, before the Trump administration put a stop to the release process for all inmates. The petition states that the indefinite detentions violate the due process clause of the Constitution.