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Trump may send captured ISIS fighters to Guantanamo

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Guantanamo Bay Camp Delta
The
Trump administration is reportedly mulling over a plan to send
several captured, high-value ISIS fighters to the US detention
facility at Guantanamo Bay.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

  • The Trump administration is reportedly mulling over a
    plan to send several captured, high-value ISIS fighters to the
    US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
  • Experts warn moving these ISIS fighters to Guantanamo
    could turn them into martyrs and aid the terror group’s
    recruiting efforts.
  • Human rights groups like Amnesty International say the
    ISIS fighters should be tried in a federal court in the
    US.

The Trump administration is reportedly mulling over a plan to
send several captured, high-value ISIS fighters to the highly
controversial US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a
move experts warn could turn them into martyrs and aid the terror
group’s recruiting efforts.

As part of this plan, hundreds of lower-level fighters other
countries have refused to accept would be placed in an Iraqi
prison,
according to NBC News
, which spoke with five US
officials and two European diplomats familiar with the
discussions. The roughly 600 ISIS fighters are currently being
held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in
a rebel-controlled area of Syria. 

Two of the high-value fighters the Trump administration is
reportedly considering sending to Guantanamo were accused of the
murder of Americans and other Western
hostages: Alexandar Amon Kotey and El Shafee
Elsheikh.

Kotey and Elsheikh, members of a group of four jihadis nicknamed
“The Beatles” due to the British accents, oversaw the beheadings
of American journalists James Foley and Steven
Sotloff, and American aid worker Peter Kassig, among
others.

Democrats in Congress oppose sending new detainees to
Guantanamo 

Critics of sending new detainees to Guantanamo, which
includes Democrats in Congress, contend doing so sends a
dangerous message about America’s commitment to human rights and
aids the propaganda of terrorists. 

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who has
visited the facility
where the hundreds of ISIS fighters are
presently detained, strongly opposes sending Kotey and Elsheikh
to Guantanamo. Shaheen is among those who believes doing so would
turn them into martyrs, according to NBC’s report, and wants them
to be tried in a federal court in the US. 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who joined Shaheen as she
visited the facility in Syria in July, believes the high-value
ISIS targets should be temporarily transferred to Guantanamo
before being brought to the US for trial. But current US law
would make this process difficult. 

The National Security Council and State Department would not
comment on discussions surrounding the fate of these detained
ISIS fighters when contacted by NBC News. 

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Pentagon told NBC, “DOD’s
detainee policy provides our warfighters guidance on nominating
detainees for transfer to Guantanamo detention should the
individual present a continuing, significant threat to the
security of the United States.”

‘Gitmo is the global symbol of US torture’

The detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which was opened by
former President George W. Bush in 2002, remains one of the most
controversial symbols of the war on terror due to its
association with torture
, indefinite imprisonment without
trial, and other human rights violations. 

At least 780
people
 have been held at Guantanamo, most without charge
or trial. 

Former President Barack Obama pledged to close Guantanamo, also
known as “Gitmo,” but ultimately failed in this endeavor largely
because of legal hurdles and obstinance in Congress. 

But human rights groups like Amnesty International continue to
call for the detention facility to be closed down. 

“Guantanamo should be closed, not filled with more people,
that’s for sure,” Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs for
Amnesty International USA, told Business Insider.

Johnson added, “Gitmo is really about politics and not
smart policy, and that’s a tragedy for everybody.”

Based on statements from President Donald Trump, Johnson says
“there’s a legitimate risk” the US may “return to torture.

“That’s completely unacceptable and can’t be allowed to
happen,” Johnson said. “Gitmo is the global symobl of US torture,
which is why it should be shutdown.” 

‘Everyone has the right to a trial and due process, that
separates democracies from dictatorships’

Johnson noted there are still people detained indefinitely
without trial at Guantanamo, including five who’ve been cleared
to leave.

In this context, Johnson agrees with Shaheen that ISIS fighters
like Kotey and Elsheikh should be tried in a federal court.
He contends these men should be brought to justice, but in a way
that respects international and US law. 

“The federal court system has its problems and needs to be
cleaned up, but it’s a much better venue for trying to get a fair
trial than Guantanamo,” Johnson said, adding, “Everyone has the
right to a trial and due process, that separates democracies from
dictatorships.”

‘Guantanamo… has been a recruiting symbol for those
extremists and jihadists who would fight us’

Though Amnesty’s primary focus regarding Gitmo is human
rights, Johnson also highlighted concerns from many members of
the military and intelligence communities regarding the detention
facility’s status as a “recruiting tool” for
terrorism. 

He pointed to the example of retired Adm. Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, who
called for Gitmo’s closing on these grounds
during an interview in 2009
.

“The concern I’ve had about Guantanamo in these wars is it
has been a symbol – and one which has been a recruiting symbol
for those extremists and jihadists who would fight us… That’s
at the heart of the concern for Guantanamo’s continued
existence,” Mullen said at the time. “I’ve advocated for a long
time now that it needs to be closed.”

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