US names envoy to close Guantanamo

Updated: 2013-06-18 09:10


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US names envoy to close Guantanamo

Human rights activists and relatives of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison shout slogans during a protest to demand the release of the detainees, outside the US embassy in Sanaa June 17, 2013. The US House of Representatives passed a massive defense bill last week that includes measures to block President Barack Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, underscoring the tough fight ahead for the White House as it seeks to shutter the controversial detention camp.[Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - The US State Department said on Monday that it has named a special envoy to press ahead with the president's plan to close the controversial Guantanamo military detention facility.

Cliff Sloan, a veteran Washington lawyer, was tapped by Secretary of State John Kerry to lead the negotiations over the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad, manage "a multitude of diplomatic issues" related to President Barack Obama's directives to close the facility, implement transfer decisions, and conduct a periodic review of detainees who are not approved for transfer, department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"This announcement reflects the administration's commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," Psaki told reporters at a regular news briefing. "This just shows a renewed focus on this effort, and renewed commitment to delivering on the president's directive."

She called Sloan an "accomplished" litigator with "a wealth of experience" as well as a "pragmatic problem solver."

Right after taking office in January 2009, Obama ordered the closure of the Guantanamo facility, which was used to house terrorism suspects since January 2002 and became notorious for repeated abuses of prisoners, but to no avail.

In his speech made at the National Defense University last month, Obama renewed his pledge to close the camp, saying its continued operation is not in the interests of US national security.

A total of 166 detainees remain at Guantanamo, down from 242 when Obama took office, Psaki said.

About 100 of them are reportedly on a hunger strike to protest against their decade-long detention.