WASHINGTON : The general who opened the US military’s Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba when its first detainees arrived in 2002 has called for the facility to be closed.
“I believe it is time to close Guantanamo,” said retired Major General Michael Lehnert in an article published in US daily the Detroit Free Press, adding that the prison “should never have been opened.”
The article comes as US lawmakers prepare a deal that eases restrictions on sending Guantanamo detainees home or to third countries but bars their transfer to the United States.
But Lehnert, the first commander of the US detention center, said the compromise measure between Democrats and Republicans, “maintains an unwise and unnecessary ban on transferring detainees to the United States.”
“There are a handful of detainees at Guantanamo who should be transferred to the US for prosecution or incarceration,” Lehnert said.
The retired general maintained that the detention facility “squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo.”
He added that he was ordered to “construct the first 100 cells at Guantanamo within 96 hours” and that the first group of 20 prisoners arrived seven days after the order was given.
When President Barack Obama took office nearly five years ago, closing the detention center was one of his first promises. But today, 162 men remain behind bars out of the 779 who passed through its doors.
Of those left, most “are cleared for transfer, but stuck by politics” Lehnert wrote.
In the facility’s earliest days, Lehnert said he realized that many detainees “should never have been sent in the first place,” and that “they had little intelligence value, and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes.”
“It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility,” he said.
The compromise is part of a larger defense bill. The House of Representatives and Senate are expected to vote on the matter before the end of December.