US President Barack Obama has urged lawmakers to give his plan to close Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a “fair hearing”, saying he does not want to pass the issue to his successor when he leaves the White House next year.
The White House has presented to Congress a plan to close the detention facility. The closure of the facility is one of the president’s long-standing goals after first making a promise in 2009.
Obama wants to see the remaining 91 detainees returned to their home countries or to US military or civilian prisons. But, first he will have to make it past Congress, many of whom are deeply concerned about terror suspects being held on US soil.
The prison costs US$445m to run annually.
The president told reporters Guantanamo Bay undermined national security.
“This is about closing a chapter in our history,” he said. “It reflects the lessons we’ve learned since 9/11 – lessons that must guide our nation going forward.”
Human rights campaigners have repeatedly complained about the prison, which has held 780 detainees since it opened in 2002.