US Vice President Joe Biden holds a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Loefven following their meeting at the Rosenbad government office in Stockholm, Sweden, August 25, 2016. (AFP photo)
US Vice President Joe Biden says he expects the notorious American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cease operations before President Barack Obama’s leaves the White House.
“That is my hope and expectation,” Biden told a news conference in Sweden on Thursday.
Obama and key officials within his administration have so far failed to shutter the detention facility and fulfill one of the iconic campaign pledges that the president made during his first presidential campaign in 2008.
Closing down the facility requires bringing dozens of remaining inmates to maximum-security prisons inside the US, a solution Congress has long blocked.
Although Obama can still theoretically override the ban using his powers as the commander-in-chief, White House lawyers and other officials think the president has not been able to develop the legal position or the political sales pitch required to do so.
US military guards move a detainee to an undefined facility inside Camp Delta in the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, March 29, 2010. (AFP photo)
Congress also opposes the transfer of prisoners to their countries of origin, over concern that released prisoners will return to militant activities.
This makes closing down the facility more complicated as only a handful of countries have voiced readiness to resettle the detainees.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon said that 15 more prisoners were transferred to the United Arab Emirates.
The transfer brings to 61 the population of inmates in the facility, where about 780 inmates have been imprisoned since the administration of former US President George W. Bush set up the facility in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Once transferred, the former detainees are put under close supervision. They are also allowed to attend rehabilitation programs.
The Guantanamo prison and its associated military commissions cost the Pentagon $445 million in fiscal year 2015. That means each of the nearly 80 prisoners left at the facility cost more than $5.5 million per year.
A Senate report in December 2014 revealed that the CIA has used a wide array of sexual abuse and other forms of torture as part of its interrogation methods against Guantanamo prisoners.