Republicans prepare legal action over Guantanamo

  • 25/02/2016
House Speaker Paul Ryan (Getty)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (Getty)

Republicans in the House of Representatives are preparing legal action in case President Barack Obama tries to transfer detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay to the United States, House Speaker Paul Ryan says.

Ryan told reporters that it would be against the law for Obama to bring detainees from the prison in Cuba to the United States, because this would violate a ban on such transfers passed by Congress in 2015.

He was speaking a day after the president, seeking to make good on a pledge he made in 2008 before he was first elected to the White House, launched a final push to persuade Congress to close the military prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

The Pentagon-authored plan proposes 13 potential sites on US soil to hold some 30-60 detainees in maximum-security prisons but does not identify the facilities.

"Our law is really clear," Ryan told reporters after a meeting of House Republicans. "These detainees cannot come to American soil."

"We are making legal preparations if the president tries to break the law," Ryan said. "And what boggles my mind is that the president is contemplating directing the military to knowingly break the law."

Such a move would be trampling on the separation of powers in the US Constitution, Ryan said. He added that not only Republicans but also many in Obama's own Democratic Party, opposed detainee transfers to US soil.

Obama is considering taking executive action to close the facility, situated in a US naval station in southeast Cuba, if Congress does not change its opposition to the transfers.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already sued the Obama administration over billions of dollars of spending in its signature healthcare program, Obamacare. Last September a federal judge ruled that lawsuit could proceed, saying the House had standing to sue the executive branch.

Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, opened the Guantanamo prison in early 2002 to house foreign terrorism suspects captured after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. Most detainees have been held without trial for more than a decade.