May 10, 2016

Obama Fails to Prosecute GITMO Detainees


  • When President Obama took office, Guantanamo held 242 detainees. Now there are 80.

  • During the time when 162 detainees have left Guantanamo, President Obama has begun only two military commission prosecutions.


162 detainees depart Guantanamo, 2 military prosecutions started

Guantanamo detainees vs number of commissions

Military commissions are supposedly an integral part of President Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. In a speech in May 2009, the president said there was a set of detainees there who were “best tried through military commissions.”

Earlier this year, the president sent to Congress a “plan” to close Guantanamo. The administration said it was pursuing military commission prosecutions as one step in that plan. Despite these claims, President Obama has begun only two military commission cases during his time in office. The first was against Majid Khan in February 2012. The second was the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi in June 2013. All other military commission cases began in the previous administration. On the other hand, 162 detainees have left Guantanamo during the Obama administration.

On March 23 of this year, the Defense Department Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “there have been Americans that have died because of [Guantanamo] detainees” being transferred from the facility. President Obama has claimed military commissions are an option for disposing of newly captured detainees in the war against ISIS. For that rhetoric to match reality, the military commission system must be built up. This is done by prosecuting cases in the system. It is long past time for the Obama administration to initiate more military commission prosecutions.

Issue Tag: National Security