Possible scenarios of Guantanamo prison under Trump

World Today

(Illustration: Bemnet Goitom)

President Donald Trump has pledged to keep the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp open and “load it up with some bad dudes“, but he has yet to explain what that will look like.

CGTN America’s Lisa Chiu explains some possible scenarios of Gitmo under Trump. (Motion graphics by Bemnet Goitom):

Possible scenarios of Guantanamo prison under Trump

President Donald Trump has pledged to keep the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp open and “load it up with some bad dudes“, but he has yet to explain what that will look like. CGTN America's Lisa Chiu explains some possible scenarios of Gitmo under Trump:

1.
If Trump keeps his campaign pledge to increase the number of prisoners he faces a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that detainees there are subject to U.S. law, including the Constitutional right of prisoners to demand to know why they are being held known as the writ of habeas corpus.

If the government can’t justify detention, the prisoner must be freed.

When George W. Bush first placed detainees at Gitmo, his administration believed they weren’t subject to U.S. law, but in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners do have the right to habeas corpus.

Bush later established a tribunal to hear detainees’ cases, and Obama modified that system when he took office.

But both systems have been criticized for being legally inadequate.

If Trump does not honor habeas corpus rights to detainees, he could cite a loophole in the Constitution that allows for a suspension of habeas corpus in cases where “rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

2.
Trump would also need to observe the Geneva Conventions. Like the writ of habeas corpus, the Supreme Court also ruled the conventions apply to Gitmo detainees.

The Geneva Conventions were negotiated after World War II, and the U.S. has been a signatory since 1955.

Barbed-wire fence outside of Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. (Photo: Andrew Smith)

It states that in times of armed conflict, people who are not an “active part of the hostilities” — including those who have surrendered — should be treated humanely.

The conventions also prohibit murder, cruelty, torture, and humiliating and degrading treatment.

Signatories are also prohibited from sentencing and executing prisoners without judgment from a court.

Bush Jr. had initially believed that the Conventions wouldn’t apply at Gitmo.

It took a Supreme Court ruling to convince previous occupants of The White House that they do. Trump has spoken in favor of waterboarding. The conventions won’t permit it.

3.
And then there’s the maintenance bill. Trump has said that the current cost to run Guantanamo prison — $40 million a month — is far too high.

“I would guarantee I could do it for a tiny fraction, maybe 5 [million], maybe 3 [million], maybe peanuts,” Trump has said.

It’s still unclear how he’ll make Gitmo more affordable.

4.
While highly unlikely, Trump could make an about-face and choose to close the prison using the power of a presidential executive order.

Obama had pledged to close Gitmo on first day in office, and even issued two executive orders to close the prison that hinged on congressional approval.

Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. (Photo: Andrew Smith)

In the end he faced extreme opposition in Congress.

While presidents can certainly issue executive orders without congressional approval (think Emancipation Proclamation), congress and the courts can still block such actions.

Closure of Gitmo also hinges on what do with the remaining prisoners.

The Obama administration eventually hoped to transfer them to the federal Supermax prison in Colorado that houses Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Moving detainees onto U.S. soil would also give them full rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. (Photo: Andrew Smith)

Congress blocked Obama’s plan by passing a law preventing Gitmo detainees from being transferred stateside.

With Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, Trump might have greater influence over lawmakers if he wanted to shut Guantanamo down.