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US Congress passes bill that bans transfer of Guantanamo detainees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hooded protestors holding placards take part in a demonstration against the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on January 11, 2015 outside of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

The US Congress has overwhelmingly passed a $607 billion “defense policy bill” that prohibits the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba to US detention facilities.

The Senate voted 91-3 in favor of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday following last week's 370-58 vote in the House of Representatives.

Congress sent the measure to President Barack Obama on Tuesday. It is unclear if Obama will sign or veto it.

The overwhelming House and Senate votes signal that Congress can override a veto attempt by Obama.

Obama vetoed an earlier version of the bill over a dispute, later resolved, because of the way it increases the military budget and war spending while not increasing funding for domestic programs.

"We all know the unfortunate and unnecessary roadblocks the defense authorization bill has faced this year. We all know that the president decided to veto the version of this bill we passed last month," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the bill was passed.

"We look forward to the president signing the bipartisan bill — along with its restrictions against bringing terrorists into the United States — into law," he added.

Congress has repeatedly prevented Obama from fulfilling a 2008 presidential campaign promise to close the Guantanamo military prison.

The president might still use his executive authority to close the prison, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last week.

The United Nations and human rights organizations have repeatedly called on the Obama administration to close the detention facility at Guantánamo.

As many as 775 detainees had been brought to the Guantanamo prison, which was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks. There are still 112 inmates at the prison.

Washington says the prisoners are terror suspects, but has not pressed charges against most of them in any court. Many detainees have been on hunger strike for months to draw attention to their conditions at the US military prison.


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