WASHINGTON D.C., United States– The Obama administration has appointed a longstanding Washington lawyer to find ways of closing the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Department of State said Clifford Sloan, who has worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations, will be responsible for closing the centre that has held some of the top terrorism captives since it was constructed shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Sloan’s appointment comes after the Republican-led House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a US$638-billion defense bill to keep the prison operating.
US Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a statement that closing the prison “will not be easy.
“But if anyone can effectively navigate the space between agencies and branches of government, it’s Cliff,” he said, referring to Sloan and describing him as “the kind of bridge-builder we need to finish this job.”
“Our fidelity to the rule of law likewise compels us also to end the long, uncertain detention of the detainees at Guantanamo,” Kerry added. “We can do it in a way that makes us more secure, not less.”
Sloan was White House associate counsel under President Clinton, an assistant solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush, and a US Supreme Court clerk.
Jennifer Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said closing the prison at Guantanamo is “something we are committed to, and we will be driving moving forward.”
She said 56, of the current 166 detainees at the prison, have been approved for return to Yemen. Another 30 have also been approved for repatriation to their home countries, she said.